Track Review: RKZ (Ft. Shawn Sanderson)- Think Of Me

TRACK REVIEW:
RKZ
(Featuring Shawn Sanderson)

Think Of Me

9.6/10.0

Think Of Me feat. Shawn Sanderson (prod. Handbook x Gifted The Great)

Think Of Me is available from:

FEATURING THE VOCALS OF:
Shawn Sanderson (@ShawnSanderson)

PRODUCED BY:
Handbook (@Handbook) and Gifted The Great (@GiftedTheGreat)

RELEASED:
5th August, 2014

The album Science X Soul is available from 21st August, 2014:

http://sxs.rkzuk.com/

GENRES:
Rap, R ‘n’ B, Soul, Hip-Hop, Spoken-Word, Pop

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One of the country’s rising stars, RKZ unveils another startling track.  With long-term collaborator Shawn Sanderson adding seductive allure, Think Of Me is a sparkling gem.  Yet another fascinating piece of the Science X Soul puzzle has been placed.

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HAVING interviewed RKZ very recently it…

gave me the chance to explore a distinct and phenomenal talent. Not only a fine and never-ending musician, the philanthropic talents of the mercurial artist left me somewhat shocked- and questioned my own personality and commitments. Inspiring me to do more and branch out, the Luton-born artist caused something of an about-face (in me). I will introduce him to you in a minute; for now, will raise one particular point. When looking at the musicians coming through; the various options and shades that are presenting themselves- there is a heady and unstoppable wave of choice available. Every style and sensation of music is represented by a myriad of different acts. It is great that there is so much ambition and fervency in the music industry; financial and social limitations are not scaring artists away- finding the finest and most distinct acts is quite a challenge. It is a subject I have beat around a lot; for today, I am concerned with personality and responsibility. I am all for musician coming through and pressing as hard as they can; making their music as impactful as they can- there is little diligence and respect beyond the boundaries of music itself. As the next week sees me embark upon a my most daunting- and exciting- project, it makes me wonder about musicians on the current scene. My business brain is setting up companies; designing a London-based music bar/cafe; an all-encompassing music website; huge initiatives- all designed to benefit musicians and struggling artists; funneling profits into the pockets of the most hungry and worthy. Not that I am bigging myself up; it just seems that few are taking the necessary time to expand horizons and consider the larger community. RKZ impressed me with his ethics and morals; his innate and unstoppable drive towards helping people- his ambassadorial work for mental health causes impressed me hugely. Before I divulge more into RKZ’s particularly striking brand of humanitarianism, I have been compelled to judge and assess the musicians of the modern scene. Those that win the biggest plaudits and retain the largest number of supporters, are those that push beyond defined and rigid boundaries- ensure that they take the time to consider the world at large. I am not saying every new act needs to donate time to charitable causes and collaborative endeavours- there should be more of it. Few acts take the trouble to use their position and status to effect real change; get under the skin of society’s problems and attempt to make a difference. Music is a device and art form that can mediate disputes; temporise and calm anxieties; lift the mind and nourish the body- its power and huge influence cannot be denied. When considering this, you wonder why more musicians do not unify music- and their sounds- with the community; those in the most need of revival and help. RKZ is one of the busiest and more considerate musicians in the world. Knowing how hard modern life is; what the street offers youngsters; the stresses and depression that can be seen behind closed doors- he is not standing by and letting it continue unabated. Acting as a spokesperson and representative for C.A.L.M., the young maverick is among the most considerate musicians about. Before I continue on my point; and give more insight into RKZ, let me introduce him to you:

RKZ (pronounced ‘Ricks’) is a singer-songwriter, rapper and Spoken Word artist from Luton, England. He began his career in 2009 as a rapper before gradually developing his skills as a singer, Spoken Word poet and writer. His musical style is considered a fusion of alternative R&B, Neo-Soul and Hip Hop. Aged 24, RKZ has already released several singles, four mixtapes and three EPs to date with a fifth mixtape, Science X Soul, scheduled to release in 2014. He has been playlisted on radio stations including BBC (Radio 1, 1Xtra, 3 Counties, Radio 4, 6 Music and Asian Network), KISS and Bang Radio, and has performed nationwide – from acoustic venues such as The Water Rats and Hoxton Bar & Grill to festivals including T In The Park, Reading, Leeds and BBC London Mela. He is currently preparing the release of his fifth mixtape, Science X Soul, and debut LP, Wanderlust. In 2012, RKZ was announced as Ambassador for CALM. The charity aims to reduce the suicide rate with young men in the UK, particularly London. Suicide catalysed by depression and stress is the single biggest killer of young men aged 15 to 35 in the UK. RKZ is a prominent writer and regularly contributes to CALM’s website and monthly CALMzine, where he touches on topics including depression, society and youth culture. He has self-published an online series called #MotivationalProse, which is dedicated to instilling a positive mentality and outlook in the youth of today. He also contributed to Hip-Hop blog, Sampleface, as a music reviewer before becoming the Head of UK Content in 2014. RKZ – who is slowly becoming a jack of all trades – has directed all of his music videos since 2011. He has gone on to direct music videos for artists including Cashtastic, Skott Summerz, Preeya Kalidas and more. He also produced video content for emerging arts talent platform, Be Discovered, which featured artists including Shakka, Little Simz, Tawiah, Chasing Grace, Jasmine Solano, MeLo-X, Little Nikki and more.

His forthcoming Science X Soul is going to be one of this year’s most urgent and impressive releases all year. On August 21st, the public will be given a chance to witness one of the country’s most promising and essential acts. It is not just charitable considerations that mark RKZ out as a distinct and noble talent- the music on offer is among the most fascinating and compelling about. I will touch more on this below; his latest cut- the second song to be taken from Science X Soul– is a gorgeous and fantastic representation of what his forthcoming mixtape offers. If you look back at RKZ’s career, you can see how busy he has been. Not contented to produce a string of solo releases, he has collaborated with a range of different artists- including Think Of Me co-conspirator Shawn Sanderson. The London-based rapper’s personal prosody and style has marked him aside from his contemporaries- the way he fused Spoken Word, Rap and Hip-Hop together has salivated the lips of many critics. Music fans and appreciators are flocking to hear all that RKZ can offer- this year will see the release of an album (in addition to his mixtape). It is clear that momentum, drive and potential is on our hero’s side- more ambitious and busy than ever, it will not be that long until RKZ is a name synonymous to most. I will delve into his music soon, but will end with one point: fusions of genres. Mixed results occur when solo acts- bands as well- experiment with sounds and infuse various genres into one- the most successful examples have produced some stunning results. There seems to be a split occurring in music: acts that do not bother to melt sounds together; those that do and fail miserably. Not naming specific people; there are too many artists that lazily fuse sounds together; do not take the trouble to be original or define their ambitions. A lot more do not even bother at all- they are content to merely present one particular sound. If you can nail and hone a particular genre, then there is less need to experiment and tamper; those that are fresh to music should always consider expanding their designs (and instilling something unexpected). RKZ is an artist that does not simply present R ‘n’ B the same way as fellow acts; incorporate Rap with little consideration towards distinction. His music not only draws in genres as diverse as Spoken Word and Soul; the way he projects these disparate themes has showcased just what a talent he is. Science X Soul will prove just what I mean: demonstrate that seamless and natural voice; an artist who is not willing to be the same as anyone else. If you are new to RKZ; unfamiliar with his music and work, then Think Of Me is a good starting place. When I witnessed Still Oceans– the first release from the mixtape- I was staggered by the layers and sounds that emanated forth; the stunning mix of still and urgent- it is a song that rattles around your head and begs for fond investigation. Think Of Me expand this further and takes the listener in another direction- an honest and tender love song, it expounds how spirituality and togetherness is as vital as sexuality and physical contact (with regards a complete bond). It will be fascinating to see what other treasures Science X Soul contains; whether excursions into Hip-Hop are more prominent than soulful ballads- with RKZ that sense of unpredictability is what makes him so impressive. What is for sure is the quality will be right up there; build on his past work and showcase a new flair and passion.

To get a proper and full understanding of RKZ’s present movements, it is worth dipping back and investigating what has come before. Looking at his music- in ascending order- is Superstars. Released over a year ago, it is one of RKZ’s early cuts. The artist has released tracks before (Superstars); here is a brave and fully-rounded documentation of a hungry performer. Featuring Shawn Sanderson, it is a perfect and scintillating slice. Perpetuity of intrigue defines the track- it bubbles and seduces from the very first notes. The distinct and beautiful vocals blend wonderfully together; it is a psychotropic and heady brew that gets into your heart and soul. Broken and closed minds are assessed; our hero looks at ruined egos and disreputable sorts- his delivery is fast-paced and determined. Showing some early promise, the song houses great contrasts and contradictions. Sanderson’s ethereal and angelic sexiness pairs beautifully with RKZ- the two unite harmoniously to create some incredible moments- Sanderson’s repetition of “break it down” is particular stirring and effective. Sharp and direct vocals are married with atmospheric and potent beats- it is one of RKZ’s finest early numbers. All Through The Night saw the continuation of the collaborative spirit. With the vocals of Sian Thomas on board, the soft and gentle introduction puts the listening in relaxing territory. Less inflamed and spiky than previous offerings, the subtle and lush strings mix with atmospheric and uplifting electronics. The piano notes are elliptical and teasing; sensual and still, they get inside of your mind. Stuttered, choppy and discordant snatches are layered in; the volume is increased and repressed- a disconcerting and head-spinning production gives the track a mesmerising feel. Our hero is loving through the night; his sexy and loverman skin houses a beating heart. Investigating a particular girl- someone whose man is not treating her with huge respect- is in his mind. Feeling he would be a better option, RKZ investigates a broken love- when the boy is letting the ball drop. Fast and frantic rapping gives the song a relentless attack (that defines the words)- the conviction and urgency sparks through with sheer conviction. Mingling sensuous delivery with heartfelt words, you root for our hero- hope that he achieves satisfaction. Earnest, thoughtful and lush, the track is a great development- a different side to the musician. Namaste acted as a prelude to the SOULar E.P. A haunted and anxious track; there are echoes and ghostly reverbs (from the start). Crackling and spitting beats fuse Trip-Hop of the ’90s with Hip-Hop of the early-’00s. Hard and edgy delivery considerations ensure the song has a restless and punchy pace; the delineation and projection speed mutates and changes throughout. Intelligent and memorable lyrics are scored by our hero- he is seeing stars with his eyes open; a visionary of sorts. Pallid and ice-cool atmospherics link into the track’s endless flow- the scattershot delivery and incredible lyrics ensure the song continues its charm offensive. The SOULar E.P. saw another step forward for RKZ. One of his finest works, it mixes so many styles and scenes together. Songs look at soulful and full-bodied deliveries; scintillating beats and electronic snatches provide urgency and danger. Elements and influences of Prince come to play; silky and developed songs fuse Soul lust with Hip-Hop freestyle- the E.P. contains a wealth of richness. Open beats and stylish production showcases an adventurous and ambitious cut- the changes in directions subvert expectations and offer a galore of surprises. Collaborative vocals and multiple vocal tones give the collection richness and variation; the lyrics and compositions are terrific throughout- the E.P. is expertly and terrifically crafted. After this insatiable and near-genius offering, RKZ released some prime and tantalising slices. Favourite Song sees our hero with the world on his shoulders- less soulful than previous offerings, the Rap assault is back. Sounding like a Spoken Word publication, the poetic delivery reminds me of Kate Tempest- a British rapper with an incredible talent. The emotional relentlessness gets inside of your brain; captivated by the juddering and spectral elements, it is a terrific and proper tune. Cool, catchy and carnivorous linger in the notes- it is a song that offer so much. A Song To Drink Tea To has clattering and lo-fi beginnings. Retro and late-night longing, the song augments and expands. The intrigue builds with a silky and serene vocal. The lyrics are captivating and deep; intelligent and quotable, the philosophical projections are stunning. Developing his pen, the track shows another bound forward- more inquisitive and striking than early days, RKZ shows a confidence and sense of direction that bellies his youth. Deep-hearted thoughts and pugnaciousness sit with frantic and tight. The jam ties threads and colours together; a dizzying trip that screws the mind and distorts the thoughts. With little regard for peacetime and ceasefire, the aural attack keeps a hold of your bones. The production has earthy elements; scorched earth vibrancy and soulful regard- not too cluttered or busy it is a stunning cut. Still Oceans is the most recent example of RKZ’s lust and insatiable talent. Catchy and feet-tapping beginnings prime the mind; swelling and soothing sonics come to the fore- replaced by a heavy and pervading beat. The vocal fragments and divides; snatches are spiked in to inject urgency- the central performance is tight and focused. Having offended someone; our man is retracting and offering an affidavit- the anxieties his colleague feels have been caused by his own foibles. If the friend wasn’t so closed-off and weak then RKZ would be stronger and more dependable. Suffering the effects of a warped friendship, you can feel the burden come through. Garage and Trip-Hop of the ’90s is played with; the still waters that “run deep” are delivered with inflammatory directness and relevance. A busy and hectic storyline is scored with a fantastic and deep composition- a fascinating glimpse into out hero’s psyche. Over the last year, our leader has shown some developments and evolution. His songwriting has become more compelling and measured; variegated and urgent, he seems to improve with each fresh song. Having cemented his authority early on, there is not a huge quantum leap- you can hear the small and impressive up-shifts. Increasing his lyrical genius; offering ‘dope’ and insanely memorable songs, RKZ is an avalanche of a talent (that snowballs with each movement)- the clear and fertile highs are present within Science X Soul. Think Of Me has the same quality and sparks of Still Oceans. Drawing in long-term collaborator Sanderson into the fray, her stunning and knee-buckling tones give the track a romantic and stunning gleam. The song looks at the completeness of love- how spiritual and emotional ties are as important as pure passion. The subject is a new one for RKZ- he explores love in past releases; never with this particular angle. The lyrics delve deep and touch the listener; provide insight and inspiration- guidance to love fools who are in it for the thrill of the physical. Philosophical and harmonious lyrics are matched by incredibly memorable vocal turns. It is terrific how much RKZ has packed in over the last year- improving with age (like a fine wine) he is an intoxicating and heady proposition. It means the future will be his for the taking- his creative mobility and range means he explores every subject with authority. Having so many arrows in his quiver, the next year will be an exciting one- you feel that he will strengthen once more; bring in plenty of personal memories- collaborate with some new and old friends.

When looking at acts that have influenced RKZ- our hero has some favourites. One of the most unexpected- but striking- inspirations is Jhené Aiko. The gorgeous American is a relatively new name on the scene. Her album Sail Out- with its sexy and eye-watering cover- impressed critical minds. The feathery tones and sky-high pitch resonated with U.S. audiences; the vocals float above the beats and come across as soaring and tranquil. Seen as a female equivalent to Frank Ocean, the mesmeric American has a busy future ahead. Her 2013 album showcases her salacious and seductive aspects; a relaxed album that has its heart on holiday- you are transported beside our heroine as she casts her dazed eyes around oceanic views. Seductive and slinky numbers mix with arresting come-ons and heartbreak. When she asks “Can I hit it again?” you wonder if she want to put her lips on a bong or have someone put their…well, you get the idea! The spirit of Yoko Ono and John Lennon’s duvet-set love-ins are updated; the ’60s Free Love movement is given a modern twist- the U.S. heroine is hip, streetwise and sassy in her declarations. Calling in an impressive rostra of guests, the album is filled with ideas and diversities. RKZ possess similar traits and qualities. He employs other singers to augment his songs- rather than come across as a novelty. Aiko’s pinner of an album had its heart in the seaside; that tranquility and listlessness made the songs so effective. RKZ is able to bond those distinct moments of sexy and seductive; meaningful and introverted- he is even stronger and more assured than Aiko. I am going to mention two Bs- when thinking of RKZ- both very different. Jon B is the first example for you all. The legendary U.S. R ‘n’ B maestro produced a string of scintillating albums like Cool Relax. That 1997 disc saw the seductive fusion of Soul, R ‘n’ B and swinging Hip-Hop. Enjoyable on the surface, the album dug deeper- the incredible production, songwriting and vocals make the L.P. such a gem. Alluring and romantic, it was a triumph. Throughout his career, Jon B has been impressing listeners and developing his craft. Able to unite strands and decades of Soul and Hip-Hop, he has had an effect on RKZ. Although our hero is more stunning and prosperous; he at least instills some of Jon B’s multi-talented convictions- ensuring all of his songs do not succumb to weakness and ineffectiveness. The Second ‘B’ I am employing is a British one: Plan B. When RKZ takes his thoughts to the street, you can hear embers of Plan B’s album Ill Manors. That album mixes wise-cracking with dark humour; intelligent wordplay and vivid, violent showdowns- dirty beats are mixed with cellos on some numbers. Looking at urban warfare and hostility, a myriad of instruments and emotions are laced in- classical elements are fused with grimy and filthy slams. The writing and delivery owe something to Eminem; Plan B’s unique take and personality imbues his songs with meaning and urgency- there is purposefulness and hard hits throughout. Although RKZ doesn’t tread the same lines of disaffectedness- parents screwing kids up; kids being gunned down- he has Plan B’s charms, talents and quality. Able to deftly weave various genres and experiences into the palette, the young Londoner marks himself as a mainstream proposition- he is no less effective and memorable as Plan B. When ‘Plan’ unleashed his debut- Who Needs Actions When You Got Words– critics noted how bold and confident it was. A fresh and daring album, it saw Ben Drew represent the voice of modern Britain- the disaffected youth were being documented. Mixing in that patented blend of primal beats and restrained moments, it was a hugely impressive debut. One of RKZ’s influences is Q-Tip. The American’s proprietary blend of sounds does not show up in too many U.K.-based music. Consider his album Amplified– you can hear some of RKZ in it. That album drew in sounds of The Love Movement- which capitulated, leading to Q-Tip’s solo career- the clipped beats and tribal movements made the album so memorable- the rapping is smooth and inventive; possessing few message songs. On Kamaal/The Abstract, Q-Tip enforced his promise and sound- the album was a huge success. More introspective (than previous works), it genre-hopped; taking in Nu-Jazz, ’70s Soul, Rock and Funk. The musicologist and icon went back to his love-sexy cores- the album was the one the public wanted. Quick and low monotone rapping nestled alongside influences of Prince, Stevie Wonder and D’Angelo. Fluid storytelling is projected with frantic pace; sometimes it is more relaxed- the organic production lends huge weight to proceedings. RKZ draws in sides of Q-Tip and his talent- those same qualities that define his reputation have had an effect on RKZ. Kendrick Lamar and J. Dilla are influences of our hero. Kendrick Lamar albums such as Section.80 were rife with anger, conviction and force- it looks at two central figures who cheat on their boyfriends. A concept album, it looks at infidelity and drug epidemics; the Reagan-era of the ’80s- slice of American life that have caused heartache and upheaval. Good Kid, M.A.A.D. City– the 2012 release- tied Rap thrills with weighty subjects. The U.S. star appealed to mainstream and underground Hip-Hop fans; it fused subtle shades and ambitious areas- it is as far-reaching and ambitious as Kanye West’s My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. The songs are complexly arranged and detailed; amazing control of cadence is bested by Lamar’s incredible lyrics. Shamelessly bold and mature, the young American benefited from his rally against the playas- the biographical insights being the songs to life. Open hearts and minds come to play; the whip-smart rapper elevated his music to giddy heights- here, there are plenty of hallucinogenic hooks and attractive production inputs. RKZ has a same maturity and huge ambition- his lyrics are as intelligent and memorable. Our hero employs narrative devices and personal insights; conceptual characters and anger- he turns his attentions to the street and youth as well. Able to mix it up with the likes of Lamar; RKZ has a bold and staggering breadth of ammunition at his disposal- it is clear that he has been influenced by the American maverick. J. Dilla created the album Champion Sound– with Madlip. The late Hip-Hop producer hit his stride on the 2003 release. The album saw some blunt and forceful rapping come through- critics noted how some serious greens must have been smoked (during recording). The beats are disorienting and head-tripping; the b-boy posturing is polished by innovative and intuitive production qualities. The legacy J. Dilla left behind him- he died of a rare blood disorder in 2006- is staggering. One of the most innovative and reputable Hip-Hop producers of all-time; I can see why he has left his marks on RKZ. Our London boy instills some of the genius’ style and panache in his music- sometimes his vocals incorporate some of J.Dilla’s tones and delivery styles. It is a frame of reference I hope he continues to employ- it has certainly made his work stronger and more potent. The final two names I will mention- as reference points- are Ghostpoet and Frank Ocean. One of few British idols, the engaging and pioneering Post-Dubstep/Alternative artist engaged critics on his 2011 album, Peanut Butter Blues & Melancholy Jam. Sounding like it should be a Captain Beefheart posthumous release, the album was defined by its urgency and insistence. The audacious and engaging music could not be ignored. The sort of lo-fi Trip-Hop numbers- Massive Attack perfected- defined the album- the poetry on the album defined British modern-day life. Ghostpoet’s Grime projections allowed the listener to engage with the lyrics; get inside the stories- the drowsy delivery doesn’t always work; it marks him out none-the-less. An impressive and emphatic debut, it has inspired many modern artists. Although not a chart-busting act, Ghostpoet is one of the most distinct and engaging acts on the modern scene- I can hear shades of him in RKZ. Frank Ocean’s stunning Nostalgia, Ultra coefficient mesmerised waiting ears. The pulsing, expansive and sophisticated music was unlike any that had come before- the self-effacing delivery and numbed vocal made the song so intoxicating. Quixotic and pioneering, Ocean literalises the futuristic visions and nostalgic remeberences- the romantic laments and mixtape sound looked at loss, respect and texture. RKZ introduces thematics of respect and loss; he has that same expansive and reaching ambition- a similarly smart and idiosyncratic style and writing flavour. Also influenced by Prince, RKZ has huge crossover potential and longevity. Ocean is in his 20s, yet wistfully longs for the past- giving shout-out to the likes of Marvin Gaye and Soul masters. Dreamlike spirals mix with novocaine-infused trips; rampant and swirling Neo-Disco codas wrestle for attention. As kaleidoscopic and deep as Nostalgia, Ultra was, it was eclipsed and trumped by Channel Orange. A modern masterpiece, the album has high-reaching storytelling and narratives; looking at relevant subjects for modern-day youth it shows huge wisdom and repose. A slow-burning epic, the album has beautiful impish crawls, Jazz motifs and a huge maturity. The American reached a career high- on only his sophomore effort. The casual expressiveness of Ocean’s voice is easy to fall in love with; the seismic shifts take your breath away- songs such as Thinkin Bout You rank among the finest tracks of the last ten years. RKZ may not have the exposure and pulpit of Ocean, yet does not suffer by comparison. As lush, rich, high-reaching and startling as Ocean, RKZ is the British equivalent- it will not be long until his own version of Channel Orange is unleashed. Perhaps the most pertinent and stunning reference point, I hope that RKZ continues to listen to Frank Ocean- he is an act that inspires legions of new musicians. Those colourful threads and heady compositions appear in RKZ’s work; the same unique blends and drunkening diamonds blow you away- his absolute statements are not subject to gradation. The current movements from RKZ have the potential to compel lovers of Frank Ocean- our young master will reach his heights before too long.

In press releases our featured track has been described in these terms:

Think Of Me is about intimacy, sensuality and connection. The record speaks of the spiritual journey two young lovers experience and how physicality is only a small aspect of complete togetherness.”

The sense of spiritual progression and sensuality is best defined by the track’s opening seconds. A woozy and warped collection of electronics bubble and spin. Eliciting a dizzying and trippy blend of low notes, it is a strangely romantic sound. Far surpassing any expectations, the intro. mixes Hip-Hop sounds (of the ’90s), Soul flavours and an edge of Trip-Hop. The notes trip and stutter; they race and calm- the entire parable is a hazy and delirious insight into what is to come. Our hero is first to the mark; his mind is filled with questions and desires. With his voice upbeat but firm, he poses questions (to his sweetheart): “Tell me what you think of/when you think of me?” Wondering where her mind goes; the words have an original and intelligent feel- they delve deep and push beyond the sexual. Lines such as the aforementioned could have you thinking of some rather vivid and sexual scenes; as we know, the song rebels against one-dimension thinking- it is a song that draws in emotions and spirituality. Of course, early exchanges do have a certain heat; you cannot picture a line such as that- without conjuring conclusions and certain impressions. Our hero is enticed by his lover’s touch; every time she smiles and moves her fingers, it provokes shivers and hypnotising- the sweat decibels rise considerably towards the 30 second mark. Backed by consistent beats; they are urgent and direct, the conviction and passion is hard to ignore- you not only immerse your mind into the song; support our hero and open your ears to his plight. Stepping to the mic. is Sanderson; following on from RKZ’s smooth delivery, her delicious and ethereal tones instantly get under your skin. The sweet and alluring delivery is filled with romance, deceleration and meaning- each word is projected with such a soulfulness, it makes you sigh and smile. Our heroine sees light- every time her man touches her skin- mixing spiritual and the metaphysical together; the story develops and unfolds. The love that she is given is deep inside; it resonates and fulfills her. Throughout the track, there is a great blend of physical and emotional- words can be taken either way. That vibrant and sparkling sexual attraction shows its soul; the desire and need burst through- the restraint and honesty that radiates is just as burning. The heroine is in the midst of a gripping and intoxicating love; a sympatico and unbreakable bond- the gracefulness and beauty that is instilled into each line is phenomenal. Wanting to spend the night with her man- “Is that alright with you?“- togetherness and détente is being surveyed. With the electronics and beats twisting and distorting, a rush of energy and electricity is unfurled- that endless compositional flexibility ensures the track never rests or limits itself. Our heroine seems happy and deeply contended. Directing towards our hero, she is appreciative and thankful; taken somewhere “I never never thought I’d go.” Past the one minute mark, you get a lot more insight into the story; greater meaning with regards the song’s intentions- the words give up their true meaning and relevance. Silky and smooth of voice, Sanderson dominates your thoughts and attentions- she never overpowers or ululates; simply allowing her ignited and vibrant passion to shine through. Before you become too entranced in the song, our hero is back- teed up by a rushing beat, queries and questions return to the fold. Those deep and pressing lines come back; wanting to know how true and deep his sweetheart’s love is, he wants to get inside her mind and thoughts. The infectious and flowing chorus sticks in your mind; compelled by the memorable and soulful vocal, you find yourself singing along with RKZ- knowing the words (from the first delivery) you are helpless to resist. Wondering whether his lover feels the rush, the song acts like a prayer or sermon- seeking answers from higher powers, the spiritual and quasi-religious nature of events keep coming around. With those defined and repeated questions (having made their mark), our heroine offers answers and insight. With a touch as soft as the moonlight that touches the ocean, she knows how devoted and committed (he is). A pure and unbreakable relationship, you feel as though our heroine would be broken- if her man walked away. Digging deeper than any sexual connection and componency, the way the love lifts her is the main take-away- it is much more important being emotionally nourished; having someone you have an indelible understanding with. RKZ unveils a gorgeously smooth and sweet vocal line; sparring with Sanderson, it drips with lust and meaning- matching the Soul greats, the delivery has honey, chocolate and spice in the mix. Having satisfied each other’s emotional needs, there is a feeling that sexual and physical desires are coming back into play- that inner longing seeps through. After the chorus comes swinging back in, the intro.’s staggering sound returns- swollen and twilight electronics tease and conspire; echoed sonics define the song’s key messages and emotions. Displaying as much overt passion as deep spiritualness, the track ends triumphantly. Having been enraptured and seduced by everything that has come before, it is hard to take it all in- Think Of Me‘s divine charms and spells overwhelm the mind. With RKZ already having established himself as a huge star-in-the-making, he unveils another staggering cut.

Before I offer congratulations to the two vocalists, it is worth summing up the song itself. Most tracks- that tie together R ‘n’ B, Soul and Hip-Hop- tend to have their thoughts trained towards the bedroom. When songs look at love and passion, the subjects tend to offer little but sweat and sex- there is scant consideration aimed at deeper and more meaningful avenues. When artists go to the other end of the spectrum- more philosophical areas are explored- the words and vocals do not hit home too hard; the songs come across as weak and unmemorable. Think Of Me is a song that dares to be different; goes that extra mile and represents love in its purest and more scintillating form. Documenting the deep and unending connection of two lovers, you are caught up by the mixture of purity and tremulous desire. The lyrics have a simple heart that means adds directness and urgency; original and intelligent enough to make your mind conspire and speculate. It is a rare example of what can be achieved when you go beyond commercial expectations and cliché realms- few acts take the time to address love in its most honest and mesmerising form. Handbook and Gifted The Great’s assured and incredible production helps to bring the song fully to life. Not too cluttered or lo-fi, emphasis is placed on concision and atmosphere. Perfectly fusing spiraling and delirious electronics with static and driving beats, the producers take time to consider the vitality of atmosphere. Joining together elements of Hip-Hop, Trip-Hop, Soul, Pop and Rap, the composition is a full and intriguing thing. Hard and punchy notes trade with lush and delirious swathes; backwards electronics and stutters exchange to tangle the emotions. A striking and multicoloured blend, the composition is one of the most fascinating and stunning I have heard all year. Sanderson and RKZ work wonderfully together. Our heroine’s voice is sensual and utterly seductive- individual and unexpected, its glorious and stunning sound gets straight into your heart. When speaking words of dedication and longing, you believe every word- you imagine a woman who is gripped by a wonderful and fulfilling love. Able to elicit a whisper and heady rush, Sanderson’s range- both emotional and physical- adds a huge amount of conviction and weight to the track. RKZ injects his inimitable and distinct voice to proceedings. Presenting the chorus with gusto, authority and emotion, he is able to get inside your head as effectively as Sanderson. I hope the two work together a lot in the future. RKZ is sensational when alone, yet something new and unexpected is uncovered when joining with Sanderson- their voices seem perfectly matched for one another. Science X Soul has already uncovered a treat- in Still Oceans– and Think Of Me is another incredible and addictive track. Showcasing a range of emotions and stories, RKZ is restless and incapable of slowing. His songwriting range and talent put me in mind of Frank Ocean; he has a similarly evocative and gripping voice- I would not be shocked to see RKZ ascend to the same levels of appreciation in years to come. If you are looking for a song to lift the mood; take you somewhere unexpected; grip you without relenting, make sure you investigate Think Of Me– a sensational and phenomenal song.

Having featured RKZ twice in the last couple of weeks- on my blog- it is always terrific to hear his music. When I interviewed him, I asked whether music could help the mentally ill- whether its power can help to balm anxieties and offer genuine guidance. Confident that music possess medical and curative properties, RKZ seems like a man on a mission- someone determined to help as many people as possible; using music as a guiding light. Our hero is keen to promote the benefits of social media- how powerful and potent it can be when you want to share music and get your name out there. It is clear that charity commitments mean a hell of a lot to RKZ- he is going to continue to work with C.A.L.M. and do as much work (for them) as he can. Having had a busy and frantic last few years, you would forgive him if he wanted to slow down- take some time to relax and sit back. Keen to make as much music as possible; reach as many as he can, Think Of Me is synonymous with its passion, directness and quality- a typical slice of RKZ gold. With Shawn Sanderson’s gorgeous and sensual vocals- aiding our hero’s quest- there is another glimpse into the mindset of Science X Soul. Past works- including four mixtapes- have shown just what a force RKZ is; how fertile and mobile his creative mind is- the future is going to be very bright. Once the mixtape- and his album- are released, it will surely bring in a lot more fans; convert the uninitiated and unfamiliar- ensure there are performance requests emanating from all corners of the globe. On that note, it seems the Luton-born star could have a huge international career. It appears a residency in the U.S. is not out of the question- his music and personality would be eaten up and adored by the American public. There are plenty of musicians and acts there that would be keen to collaborate; enjoy the rewards of joining their music (with his)- definitely something to consider. I am going to try my best to see RKZ in the flesh; up close and personal in the live environment- see just how his music resonates with others. He is the sort of man who could aid and assist my own multi-disciplined music endeavours- as I aim to launch my business. With grand ideas of a music charity, website, bar and website in mind, I am keen to assist and help as many as possible- recruit musicians and artists to my cause. The problem with a lot of musicians is the lack of caring and outward consideration. They are not bad people; it seems that their own personal endeavours are more important than anything else- charity and benevolence tends to take a back seat. Musicians that do more and aim further are going to be the ones that will last- there will always be a place for them. RKZ is keeping busy and ensuring that his next year is going to be action-packed and focused. Given his workrate, I would not be surprised to see more releases and singles beckon forth- he is keen to collaborate with as many different people as possible. Before I conclude, I just want to mention the artist himself- just what he is providing. Think Of Me is as authoritative and memorable as Still Oceans: if the rest of Science X Soul is as striking, we may bear witness to 2014’s most essential record. Having investigate previous RKZ mixtapes, I can pay testament to just how good and nuanced they are- the songs reveal new meanings as time progresses. With an album on the horizon, it seems that there is no stopping the young pioneer. Having been inspired to run a half-marathon (for Mind)- because of RKZ- he is an artist that compels you to do more; be better and open up your eyes. The music itself is that which can compel and rouse up-and-coming artists. From my own perspective, I have been provided much to think about; witnessed a new and scintillating voice come through. What the next few months hold is hard to say- in the run up to 2015, the 24-year-old is going to be covering a lot of ground; playing to a lot of people. For those of you who bemoan the inconsistency of the music industry- me included- make sure you take solace and heart from the great artists that do come through. Not only can they put you in a better frame of mind; they can give you a new lease on life- focus your thoughts towards more positive places. RKZ is someone who will not tire from self-improvement and the betterment of others- his music highlights his soulfulness and determination. With embers of Think Of Me still spiking my brain, I am reminded of some of our hero’s words. On his track A Song To Drink Tea To, the following lines were delivered: “I’m hoping that this ocean of a view/Has me sitting next to you.” Given the effects Think Of Me has (on the listener) these words can be applied readily here. Take the chance to seek out RKZ and his current movements- as well as his past. One of my goals for 2014- in addition to getting some cash together- is to go and see some of my favourite music review subjects. After falling in love with RKZ’s special brand of song, I shall make the trip to come see him…

I’M sure I can find the money.

About the Author:

https://musicmusingsandsuch.wordpress.com/about/

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Follow RKZ:

Official:

http://rkzuk.com/

Facebook:

https://www.facebook.com/RKZMusic

Twitter:

SoundCloud:

BandCamp:

http://rkzuk.bandcamp.com/

MySpace:

https://myspace.com/rkzuk

iTunes:

https://itunes.apple.com/gb/artist/rkz/id321513973

Last F.M.:

http://www.last.fm/music/RKZ

Vimeo:

http://vimeo.com/rkzuk

VSCO:

http://rkzuk.vsco.co/

Tumblr:

http://rkzuk.tumblr.com/

Instagram:

http://instagram.com/RKZUK

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RKZ videos available via:

https://www.youtube.com/user/RKZUK

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RKZ’s music can be heard here:

https://www.facebook.com/RKZMusic/app_204974879526524

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For all tour dates/gigs:

http://rkzuk.com/

Track Review: Fola- Comfortable

TRACK REVIEW:

Fola

Comfortable

9.3/10.0

Comfortable is available from:

RELEASED:
20th May, 2014

WRITTEN BY:
Fola [Pensouls]

PRODUCED BY:
Villi Vbeats Mambu & Femi V [@ProducerVbeats & @femi_vessel]

CO-PRODUCED BY:
Fola

VOCAL ARRANGED BY:

Fola & Ideh

BACKGROUND VOCALS BY:

Areatha Anderson [@areathaanderson], Fola & Ideh [@sylviaidehuk ]

MIXED BY:
LNT Music Group [@LNTMusicGrp ]

GENRES:
R ‘n’ B, Soul, Pop, Hip-Hop

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With so many R ‘n’ B and Soul acts- in the modern scene- declining (as their careers progress), Fola has a consistency and sense of evolution that stands him apart. From his early days, the London-based artist has grown and built his stature. Comfortable is a fine and addictive slice from an incredible talent- his cocktail of smooth and sexual soulfulness; catchy and rhythmic R ‘n’ B motifs make him a scintillating proposition
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ONE of the best things about music is the sheer diversity and surprise…

it can provide. Having just reviewed a Hardcore/Punk band from Stoke, I now take my thoughts to an R ‘n’ B/Soul act from London. Two more distinct acts you could not find- there is nothing to connect them at all. I am going to mention a few points today; one revolves around Soul and R ‘n’ B. The genres are quite busy and well-represented- all sorts of different sounds can be heard. In terms of mainstream and popular appeal, there are few acts that resonate in the mind. With the ranks of the charts being dominated by effete and short-term appeal, the Soul and R ‘n’ B acts- that are in the charts- are not exactly the most heady and impressive. With the likes of Beyoncé perhaps having passed (their best days by), the job is left to fall onto the new generation- find acts that can come through and impress. Being a fan of Usher and Michael Jackson, I yearn to find acts that can unify and bond Soul, Pop and R ‘n’ B- draw in those glorious sounds and possibilities. When I scan around the music landscape, there are not many convincing artists that pull this off- there are one or two; they are in the minority. A lot of the mainstream- and new music- is dominated by Pop (pure and unadventurous), Indie and Rock- styles of music that fuse multiple sounds and emotions are not as widespread as they should be. Sam Smith and La Roux are two examples- I mention a lot- that have been able to melt Soul, R ‘n’ B and Pop together- in a riotous and colourful blend. It is a shame- it is not done more- as the results (when done right) can be tremendous and hugely evocative. If you look back at history; cast your mind to the ’80s and ’90s- just look at what the likes of Whitney Houston and Boyz II Men have produced- that incredible and emotive music; the sheer passion and genius. I have a few more small points to raise; for now, I will introduce my featured act:

Inspired by the greats of the music world like: Michael Jackson, Whitney Houston, Boyz II Men, Brandy, Usher and Beyoncé, young Londoner singer/songwriter Fola is also set to make his mark in the world of music. Developing & perfecting his craft from the early ages of 11, Fola entered various talent competitions and showcases performing to different audiences around London. 2007 saw Fola branch out more by entering popular TV show The X-factor where he got through to bootcamp. The year also saw Fola tour with Grammy Award nominated singer Joshua Groban on his Awake UK tour. Fola continued to perform locally generating a following for himself as an artist. Writing and recording new original material was the next agenda for the talented singer. Fola began working with talented producers, songwriters and vocal arrangers like: Maleek Berry, DDark, J Warner, DavidB, SOS, Alex E and Richard Isongs, to create great music that would represent him well and showcase his deep, smooth, sultry vocals that set him apart from other singers on the scene today. Fola’s music has been described as mainstream r&b/pop music that is universal and highly relatable in content. Star was Fola’s first ever official single release in 2011 with UK MC/Producer DDark. The song was a pop/grime/electro club banger that did very well for both acts, opening more doors of opportunities as well as building their ever-growing fan base. Due to the great response from Star, from Dj’s across the country and fans, Fola decided to release his first solo project – GO. A mixtape consisting of some songs that he had been working on for the past 2 years prior to the release of Star. The mix-tape was a message driven body of work that dealt with love, independence and good times. In 2013 Fola decided to change his sound and go for a more acoustic driven project – After Green, released in the summer of 2013. The Mixtape was inspired by the Kinects – Fola’s fans. A lot of people took interest in Fola’s live acoustic act and wanted to hear more of that sound recorded. After Green saw the collaboration with Femi Vessel, guitarist and keyboardist from London. Fola also teamed up with Mr Damention for Swag Back, the first song from the mixtape. Swag was also produced by Femi Vessell. The mixtape also consisted of covers of Riahnna’s Diamonds and Chris Browns’ Don’t Judge Me. Beyonce’s I Miss You was also recorded following the success of his performance of the song on reload session, which generated huge interest on YouTube. Other producers that contributed to the project Akin The Producer (Diamonds & Don’t Judge Me) & Maleek Berry (Together, Open The Gates & Round & Round). Fola is now in a song writing duo called Pensouls with singer/songwriter David B. Both have been writing for other artists and Fola’s new up and coming EP – Promise Land set to be released in 2014. Fola has also formed a close collaboration with producer Villi ‘V Beats’ Mambu. The Open The Gates singer just recently signed to GMG Music Management, and is set to do great things in the future. Promise Land EP is a more mature, smooth sensual side and explores r&b/pop/soul styled music.

Male solo artists are producing some mixed results- over this last year. The solo market in general is among the most exciting and prosperous- the best of the breed are deeply impressive. Having so many sole acts on the scene, the overall consistency and quality is not as high as it should be. Perhaps feeling the weight of expectation; maybe not showcasing enough range and diversity, the current crop are a mixed bag. The very finest artists have been causing salivation and deep impressions- this is especially true of new acts. Fola is a musician that is definitely not capable of disappointing or being meagre- his ambition and flair is cementing him as a name to watch. With his E.P. Promise Land arriving soon, the mature and sensual concoctions he elicits are causing seduction and effusive praise. Not only does the London-based star explore his soulful and sexual side- up-tempo and crackling R ‘n’ B snaps are experimented with. A fully-rounded and ambitious act, he is going to be making serious waves in years to come. In spite of the fact he has appeared on reality TV- a subject that causes me to rant and scream- Fola has developed into a credible and unique artist- someone who is determined not be seen as just another Pop-cum-Soul act. His mobility and changing sounds have seen him develop and improve- since his earliest days, he has grown more confident, assured and striking. In terms of new music, there are a few acts that fuse similar sounds and experiences- as Fola- into their music- few do it with such a sense of occasion and conviction. One of the most bold and memorable solo artists coming through, the young Londoner will be sure to reap critical acclaim- from the release of his E.P. Before I move on, I want to explore the issue of London music. Over the last few weeks, artists from RKZ to Dana McKeon have come under my radar- both acts take their motifs and inspirations from the street. RKZ’s Rap and Spoken-Word gems are literal and intelligent; draw in paragons of modern-day existence around love and ambition- he is one of the most exciting and talented musicians around. Dana McKeon’s Beatbox-Pop looks at ambition and dreams- her incredible vocal abilities are stirred in a melting pot of incredible sounds. The capital is promoting a great deal of fervent and daring Urban-influenced acts- musicians that give a great and authoritative representation of modern Britain. Fola has his heart in similar avenues; his social consciousness and observations mingle with heartfelt love songs and codas of passion- marking himself out as one of London’s best artists. Having recently been ensconced in a musical slump, London is starting to revive and inspire: other parts of the U.K. have been stealing focus throughout 2014. With a fresh and hungry wave of (phenomenal) artists pouring forth, eyes are being trained back at London- the ancestral home of some of history’s greatest musical moments. The various scenes, sights and sensations are compelling (musicians here)- leading to some wonderfully-realised songs and albums. Fola is a man on a mission: an artist that wants to cover as much ground as possible; record music for as long as he can. His initial and early works have been met with adulation and respect; he is increasing his potential and quality with every new movement (he unveils)- this natural evolution is going to be exciting to see. Comfortable is a typically confident and memorable slice from the young star- a perfect representation as to what his E.P. will contain. New music is tempting in a lot of eager and excitable musicians- each keen to present their songs to the public. In so much as they require market share and backing, they also need some inspirational drive- acts that have proved themselves and can give guidance. With a drive and talent that demands close investigation, Fola is sure to be a valuable reference to up-and-coming musicians- many will be able to take notes from the young star’s current endeavours.

For a greater appreciation of Fola’s present, it is worth dipping back into his past. Having recorded so many different tracks- sometimes with other acts- there is a great and vast range to choose from. Having developed and changed since his early days, tracks like Living A Lie are some of his earliest attempts. That track has an atmospheric and haunting beginning. Sensual and romantic vocals back evocative and scenic lyrics. As the vocals are layered and built up, our hero is keeping his feelings inside- he has been hurt by his sweetheart but does not let the pain out. Prince’s early-career ideas come out in the track; those smooth and hypnotic vocal sounds come forth- supported by rampant and primal beats. Trip-Hop and R ‘n’ B elements unit to whip up atmospheric and soulful blends- it is a stunning statement from the young artist. Antarctica is pummeling and urgent- rushing and clapping electronics beckon the song forth. The vocals stutter and tease; promulgate different emotions- lustful and pained come through to varying degrees. Smooth and gorgeous, the performance looks at the changes of life and love. Drawing some hints of Usher and Michael Jackson, the track is catchy and danceable. Crackling and sparkling with life, it is bolstered by an impressive and polished production. Fola went on to build his reputation with I’m Here. The song marries Eastern-sounding strings- Asian sounds come out- and a sensualised and silky vocal. The beats are more sparse- punchier and more packing in potency. Emotive lyrics and insights give the song many layers and shades. At the heart, our hero wants to support a girl- throw his arms out and provide comfort. Showcasing tenderness and thoughtfulness, our man is there for her- keen to get her through tough times. Taking Off features the talents of Jamkilla- a song that has more robotic and processed moments. The vocals are put through computers; fractured and echoing, there is an oddly detached and anodyne sound that comes through. This does not equate to poor quality at all- the song comes through urgently and insistently. Displaying shades of current R ‘n’ B and Soul, it is a fresh and vibrant cut (from terrific collaborative talents). When the mixtape After Green arrived, it saw our hero increase his ambitions and desires. Round and Round shows some karmic retribution and Golden Rule equality- the breathy and sighing beginnings are a tantalising and intriguing injection. The modern and cutting-edge production values give the song shine and clarity- it is emotive and full-bodied. Female vocal input creates a more rounded and diverse feel; the distinct tones parabond marvelously and elicit a lot of romance and sexuality. Beautiful and impressive, it is a fine number. Open The Gates is another highlight- a soft and building start reminds me of Whitney Houston and Destiny’s Child. Mixing in some aspects of Prince and Boyz II Men, the song unites threads of ’80s/’90s U.S. Soul with some current R ‘n’ B sounds. Whereas Round and Round looked to the future and the cessation of mankind- among other thoughts- here there is spark and a glowing heart. Retaining that distinct sound and personality, it is a track perfect for the warm summer evenings- when you want to sit back and unwind. Bringing us more to the present moment, Hitting The Road is another gem. A rushing and urgent intro. sees build and development occur. The vocal is insistent and lower-down; mixing greater tonal range and diversity, we see our hero’s vocal range come to the fore. Direct and swelling, the chorus is a catchy and insatiable thing. Backed by juddering and vibrant electronics, it sees a bold and confident leap forwards- our man keen to develop and expand his sound and artistry. The Way You Are is a sensual and soft track- vibrating and machine-rendered vocals have some Usher-flavoured tones. Modern-day R ‘n’ B rawness fuses with classic and vintage Soul soothe. Comfortable continues the quality and sense of adventurousness. Mixing flavours and sounds into the mix, it is a cinematic and fully-rounded beast. More insistent and catchy, the vocal is more natural and unfettered. Beats here get your feet moving and tapping; the smooth and chocolately vocal turn spars sexy with urgent. His finest cut to date, the song is a bold and impressive statement from a mobile and hungry musician- someone who never fails to surprise and impress. Over the course of a couple of years, Fola has managed to draw in a range of influences and ideas- his newest incarnation is as unique and individual as anything. While there are embers of Usher, Whitney Houston and Boyz II Men, it is hard to compare the track with anything else- its freshness and striking memorability lodges the notes in your brain. Fola is keen to melt some familar sensations with his own inimitable voice- his songwriting is distinct and original as any I have heard. Whilst it sits well with the best mainstream examples of R ‘n’ B and Soul, its Pop sensibilities and undertones mean it cannot be defined and confined- the song will strike a chord with a myriad of different listeners. Incredibly insatiable and addictive, it provides a captivating glimpse into what the imminent E.P. will possess- a tableau of excellence from one of this country’s most ambitious and hard-working musicians. It will be great to see where Fola goes from here- whether he stays with his current sound or develops it further. The honing and consecrations have led to his most stirring and impressive songs to date- I would be loathed to suggest improvements or changes. Having matured and learnt as a singer, Fola is now starting to come across as a bona fide star-in-the-making. More confident and alive than ever before, you can hear the passion and meaning come through- his performance on Comfortable is as tight and impactful as anything else. This all bodes well for the future months- it will see the young star transcend to the mainstream and cause excitable ripples. Over the last few years, we have seen a lot happen for Fola- his music and personal developments have enforced his music and direction. Drawing in some sound new avenues and ideas, that hypnotising concoction of smoother-edged R ‘n’ B magnanimously joins with fizzing and scintillating Pop crackle- the deep and soothing Soul swathes make the music so compelling and nuanced. I am sure there will be another E.P.- or album- due in 2015- a great opportunity to see just what the young master can come up with. The here and now is where we are- the elliptical, effusive and inspiring offerings are gaining momentum and huge praise. Guaranteed to soundtrack your summer, Comfortable is the concentration and distillation of all Fola’s multitudinous strands- a vibrant tapestry from a very innovative and daring artist.

Although Fola is a distinct and fresh voice, he does dip into music’s past- inspired by some of the greats of music. One of the most treasured icons- for Fola- and distinct names is Michael Jackson. When looking back at Fola’s early work, I could detect signs of the King of Pop. The best Jackson album- to use as a reference point- is Off the Wall. One of Jackson’s lesser-renowned works- it did scoop Grammy awards- some of its most emotive and sensual moment have resonated with Fola. The 1979 masterwork was the first true work of genius (from Jackson). Songs such as the title track and She’s Out of My Life are classics that have aged incredibly well; Rock with You is an insatiable and upbeat jam- Working Day and Night is a classic cut that is under-appreciated among music listeners. Although Off the Wall did not make the same strides as Thriller, it was a hugely impressive disc. The album remains a slick and authoritative R ‘n’ B/Pop hybrid- a seamless and wonderful fusion that is the leader of the breed. With a Disco-flavoured slant, the album marked a huge leap of maturity- gone were the immature and naive cores to be replaced by something harder and more grown-up. The class and epic grooves that spill out of Jackson’s album have compelled and inspired generations of new acts- Jackson’s style and technique (as a singer) were cemented and augmented. Voting committees and the press were more ambivalent- than Jackson would have hoped. Thinking the album deserved much wider acclaim- he has a point- that spurned his burning ambition to impress and seduce- ensuring critics did not ignore him, the thrills on Thriller left no-one in doubt. Fola instills a lot of Off the Wall‘s majesty and styles. That similar maturity and edginess comes through in his music; his singing technique and projection mixes sleek and smooth with jagged and rugged- the boy and man personas tussle and wrestle with one another. Songs like Comfortable combine heartfelt sentiments with some knife-edge thrills and slices. Jackson marked himself out as a gifted and peerless vocalist- on the album- and used that elasticity to bring life to each song. Fresh and vibrant, tracks like She’s Out of My Life and Get on The Floor remain solid works of genius. Strong melodies, rhythmic hooks and the dazzling production galvanised the album- Quincy Jones and Jackson’s mix of Disco beats and funky guitars added life and layers to all of the tracks. Fola imbues his songs with similar consideration and depth- making sure snatches of different genres and instruments add intrigue to the surroundings; Jacko has had a clear effect. When looking at other legends of song, the likes of Stevie Wonder come to mind. When I consider a Wonder album to introduce- I can parallel with Fola- it would be Innervisions. Perhaps the closest-sounding album (to Fola’s sound), it remains a real and personal collection of tracks. Wonder is the central genius that everything else revolves around- his inventiveness and range of movements is quite astonishing. Taking in the likes of Blues, Soul, Folk and black music means the disc is a compelling masterpiece. So much depth and knowledge went into it- you can tell just how cultured and astute each note and thought is. Not keen to micro-manage, Wonder mixes the lyrical and didactic into one- his lack of literal vision is heightened in the glaring clarity and sight of his music. Themes range from real-world problems to subjugation and entrapment- the young master looks at the poison of the city; the lies we tell children; the ill effects of drugs. Fola has a similar knowledge and love of music: having incorporated so many different genres into past work; on his current offering he solidifies and tightens this natural affinity and talent. Having a vision for emotional resonance and passionate depth, he makes sure all of his songs differ and do not overlap- the range of topics he explores is phenomenal. The narrative catchiness of Innverision‘s finest tracks marries hard-scrabble cautionary tales with stunningly startling commentaries. Fola has been inspired by the likes of Stevie Wonder: the way he deftly intertwines pressing issues with melodic resonance is highly effective and uplifting. Maybe many would not think that Whitney Houston has had an effect on Fola- she definitely has. One of the most captivating and applauded artists of our time, her finest work remains My Love Is Your Love. Whilst her Whitney album was perhaps a bit more personal and immediate, her 1998 startle hit harder with listeners and critics. The mature consistency on the album marked a career high-point- the mixture of survivor instinct-cum-heartfelt lover makes everything sound so elemental and imploring. The music transformed into something less rigid and more supple- Houston introduced vocal improvisations and fewer restrained boundaries (to her performances). The album showcased how effortless she commingled Disco, Dance, Pop and R ‘n’ B together- sometimes within the same song. The L.P. does have some old-fashioned sludge; for the most part the crossover appeal and potential cemented it as a modern classic. It is the emotion and conviction- Houston injects in every song- that makes her such a hugely influential singer. Able to hit heady heights and seduce when events are calmer, her emotional spectrum is only matched by her impassioned and gripping voice. Fola tends not to let his voice belt and operate as emphatically- he is more effective and distinct when letting his crooning and smooth side work. There are five more names and artists I will list; before that, D’Angelo sticks in mind. The Neo-Soul legends has inspired legions of modern-day singers- in no small part due to his dynamic and electrifying range. Brown Sugar was the album that introduced the world to D’Angelo. Mixing ’70s Prince with Smokey Robinson, critics were impressed by the updated sounds and lack of over-familiarity. The revolutionary rebel sees R ‘n’ B revitalised and reinvigorated: dosed with a spoonful of kick and passion, Brown Sugar remains one of the most important album of the ’90s. D’Angelo looked back at the legends of Soul and injects Hip-Hop potency into older sounds. Later in his career, D’Angelo forsook bootylicious for disquiet and evocation; he did not succumb to tune-and-hook- it was the blueprint for post-Soul music. Incorporating Vaudeville-Memphis, Ragtime-Blues fusion and Jazz notations, the Voodoo album (D’Angelo’s 2000 work) was his masterpiece. Before I elicit a quartet of legends, I will mention a big influence- for Fola- Boyz II Men. The U.S. vocal harmony group started out bombastically with Cooleyhighharmony. The production saw throwback elements infused with contemporary stylisations- the “Hip-Hop Doo-Wop” group put a collegiate spin on the traditions of Doo-Wop. Imbuing everything with a modern edge, the boys (or Boyz) sparred swinging anthemics with tender and rousing emotional ballads- letting their incomparable and unmatched vocals do the talking. Libidnal melisma, swaggering arms-aloft stutter and sonic cherry bombs came out in the album- something that was expanded upon on future albums. Although the U.S. legends received mixed critical reception- following their early albums- you cannot deny the effect II had. Their finest hour, the album sees high-soaring jams ensuring crowd-pleasing moments. The slower numbers are the ones that resonated the hardest- when the group mixed their stunning tones together. Fola draws in a lot of Boyz II Men’s best aspects: his soft and emotive vocals elicit the same sort of chills as Boyz’; he is able to soar and seduce- reflect and introvert. Possessing the same smooth and sweet tones; the updated versions of vintage sounds- Fola is a modern-day distillation of Boyz II Men. Whilst unable to summon up the same army of vocals, our London hero does include just as much emotional weight and soulfulness. When he brings the lights down- on the more soaring and romantic numbers- that is when you hear the familiarities. Continuing the run of U.S.-born influences, Prince is another name- that you can draw with Fola. When listening to Fola’s past work; his vocal acrobatics and incredible collages of tones- I could hear some mid-career Prince. Two Prince albums come to my thoughts- when looking at Fola’s work. Purple Rain is the first of his albums (I will mention). Lauded as a work of genius, the album must have featured on Fola’s young mind. Although the L.P. delves into Rock and Heavy Metal territory, that experimental and unrestrained sense of ambition can be compared with Fola. Hard and funky beats- on Purple Rain– sat with majestic ballads and Neo-Psychedelic oeuvres. Fola- in his previous incarnations- has introduced Funk-laden moments with eerie and more potent sounds. When listening to Comfortable, I caught a D.N.A. mix of Take Me With U and Computer Blue– maybe some of When Doves Cry‘s luster is there too. Prince hits home hardest- with me at least- when he is in more sensual and romantic territory. When his voice slinks and whispers, you get some of his most potent offerings. The Gold Experience is a Prince album that I can compare with Fola. The stripped-down Funk and delicate balladry made thew album so emphatic; the dynamic range- seen throughout the album- impressed fans hugely. If you listen to wonders like The Most Beautiful Girl in the World, you get a stunning and spine-tingling love song. Prince introduces some of his highest and lowest notes; the breadth and depth of his passion and panache- it is a Philly Soul tribute that grips at your soul. The tightness and array of sounds made The Gold Experience such a joy- the scintillating stories and confidence displayed cannot be faulted. Fola has demonstrated his versatility and dynamism in his past work; on Comfortable he elicits the same purity, beauty, power and curiosity (as seen in The Gold Experience‘s finest moments). The final trio of influential guides are Brandy, Usher and Beyoncé. Brandy is an artist most of us have heard of- maybe few listen to regularly. The American hit her initial peak on Never Say Never. That album saw a mingling of Adult-Contemporary with streetwise edges. Subdued and smooth vocals made her lyrics- some of which were distinctly below-par- urgent and essential. The pizzazz and charm that radiated throughout the album was only bested by a unique mix of jaded emotions and gleeful outpouring. The quality of the songs and production elevate the album beyond easy criticism and derision- the sense of adventure and ambition mark it out as a solid and impressive work. Fola has more consistency and quality (than Brandy) yet does instill some of her hallmarks and elements. His fusions of streetwise and soft make his songs so deep and compelling; the soulful and uplifting deliveries make all of his words so compulsive and necessary. Usher is a favourite of mine; someone who has inspired the Comfortable star. My Way is perhaps the best of Usher’s earliest works- the album that saw the ambitious pretender hit the big leagues. Tracks such as You Make Me Wanna… stood out in the imagination- that sexy and seductive lick is hard to overlook. Refined, tasteful and gentle; the album was a sensual and mild-tone work. Sweet-natured and not too one-minded, the album showcased a distinct and defined personal voice- one that was threatening to explode (on previous albums). Throughout the years, Usher has been developing his style and projection- there are fewer down-tempo numbers (on recent works) than his early career. The refreshing offerings on discs such as Here I Stand stand up to repeated listens- that album shows Usher more matured and destined for dancefloor pantheons. While a lot of R ‘n’ B purveyors- of the ’90s and ’00s- came across as atrabilious and uninspired; Usher developed and reinvented himself. The king of R ‘n’ B, Usher shows- on every album- just what a force he is; all backed by that indisputably glorious voice. Fola has changed and evolved just as much (as Usher)- keen to remain fresh and inspired. Having covered bachelor boy days and grown-up reflections, the Londoner has managed to defy expectations and protocol. The last name I shall mention is Beyoncé. Perhaps an unexpected influence, the U.S. giant confounded critics on her Beyoncé album. Having solidified her reputation, few were expecting something so scintillating and vital. Sexed-up falsettos and ramped-up emotions sat with effortless swoops and determined and defiant rebellion. Although Fola does not tread the same feminist lines, he does contain and present the same swooping and sexed-up swathes- able to unite diverse sounds and make them sound utterly compelling. Gospel power and Hip-Hop flow goes into his music; his technical range and emotional depth can be compared to Beyoncé- a singer that is regarded as one of the most talented on the modern scene. Loose song structures and sexuality marked Beyoncé as a triumph- made for the clubs and contemporary venues, every track seemed like an essential and pressing made-for-radio hit. Sonically experimental and clashes of emotions married bold exploration and self-examination- topped off with music that drew in as many men as women. Not megolomanical and braggadocio, Beyoncé’s feminist presentations were not crafted to rebel against potential listeners- they were aimed at attracting as many as possible. Monogamy, romance, heartache and mixed-message come-ons united metaphorical with literal. Fola is uncompromising when it comes to emotions and barriers- his music dips as deep and ambitiously as Beyoncé’s. If you are a fan of any of the artists above; not overly-keen on any of them, then do not fear- Fola is an act that is as distinct and individual as any. Only incorporating the touches and shades of his idols, the abiding sound is one created by a striking and special talent.

A futuristic and blissed-out vibe heralds Comfortable in. Psychedelic and spacey electronics wail and echo- it is a smooth and intriguing rapture that begins things with a heady and insatiable kick. Joined by finger-clicks, the parable starts to relent and calm- romantic strings are introduced in the background to offer serenity. Right up until the initial vocal offerings, the composition is kept busy and layered. Elements of Soul, R ‘n’ B and Pop are married alongside (slightly) heavier elements. When our hero does approach the mic., his voice is determined and urgent. Speaking to his sweetheart, he is in romanticised and supportive mood. Whatever happens with her; if there are any issues at all, our man is “gonna be right by your side.” As the night draws in, the mood starts to get sexier and slinkier. The vocal is velvety and entrancing; switching from Prince-inspired sounds to a darker and more chocolate-toned line- the combination of vocals (Fola’s) gives the song an additional weight and sense of occasion. You can picture the scenes and sights that are unfolding. As he directs to his woman, the lights are dimmed and the night draws in. Always being there for her, our hero will “give it all to you“- if she wants to party and dance then he will follow her. That sense of satisfaction and romantic intention is clear; the sensuality and electricity of the performance never relents. The production is polished and clear enough to allow the vocal to shine; it does not bury the compositional layers too deeply. The percussive beats crackle and spark; the swathes of Soul-tinged electronics keep the sweat and sultriness very much alive. If his sweetheart wants to move her body way down, then the night is primed for that- whatever the mood and situation dictates; our hero is by her side and ready to accompany her. There is no pressure and forcefulness; that relaxation and freedom enforces the sound. Against the scenes of late-night adventure and action, the supportive sounds layer and build. The vocals weave in and out of one another; tripping and spiraling, the energy and fascination grows by the second. Supported by atmospheric and kinetic compositional crackles; Comfortable grows ever headier. The title is the abiding point and message- our hero just wants his girl to be comfortable. Not just training his thoughts to the bedroom, Fola does not succumb to male intuition- the most predominant aspects of a lot of R ‘n’ B artists. As a female vocal is offered in- to bring the heroine to life- an additional aspect of beauty is presented. Her sweet and sensual tones blend perfectly with Fola. The duo work with one another and ensure an elliptical and scintillating unity- one that perfectly gets inside of your head. Having been washed up in the swathes and waves of sound; the enraptured and imploring vocals- the next verse arrives. Our hero restrains his desires to offer up some sage advice. Scenes and sets are drawn into the song. The girl is very much on (Fola’s) mind and arresting his desires; his movie queen sweetheart is making his mind and thoughts spin- wanting to “kill the scene“, the sexual tension grows once more. There is long-term ambition and intent in our hero’s thoughts; wanting the girl for more than a night, he seems to be in the throes of love- perhaps her alluring and unforgettable charm is settled inside his heart. When the vocals- once more- slither and slink inside one another, you catch glimmers of other artists. Being inspired by the likes of Boyz II Men, Michael Jackson- having elements of Prince to his sound too- that adds enormous potency to the voice. Able to weave in that same captivating fascination (Prince pioneered), the sexiness and stunning range; the smooth and delirious harmonies of Boyz II Men- the crackle and snap of Michael Jackson. Mixtures of high and low notes mingle with a range of different emotions- lust and desire sit with mature and restrained offerings. Caught up in the multifarious and uplifting vocal combinations, the song never stops fascinating and overwhelming- its rushes and energy mandate the listener to become involved in the song; get their feet tapping and let the music take them away. Comfortable has a great vintage vibe to it: uniting the classic Soul and R ‘n’ B sounds of the ’70s and ’80s- the Pop magic of the ’80s and early-’90s- it fuses modern-day and current sounds. The way Usher updates older and more established cuts- with a veneer of modern shine- makes him such an authoritative and legendary figure.  These are the same qualities that can be applied to Fola. His voice and music could easily fit in the halcyon days of Soul; just as relevant to the music of 2014, it is an intoxicating and detailed blend. Among the scenes and proclamations of sensuality, the hero allows his mature and protective side to come out. All of the other men- who have messed his girl around- have left her bruised and cynical- our man is the only one that will keep her safe and not let her down. You believe the words that come forth. In part this is down to the performance and conviction that emanates; largely it is because there is no good reason to lie. Having taken in everything that has come before; the directness of the words- the latest revelations and promises seem natural and wholly viable. Because of this, the song gains extra credibility and weight. Lesser artists would either bog their songs down in innuendo and sexual ruminations or else come across as saccharine and desperate. Fola seamlessly blends emotions so that a perfect balance is created: you are rooting for him (and his girl) to be together; hoping that his intentions are true. At no point does the song seem disingenuous or ineffective. In the chorus, the vocals rise and layer; high and sweet utterances bond with low-down and silken projections. Towards the final stages, you have more of the story (and facts) at your disposal; the luxuriant and devilish glee keeps gripping the soul- the track never lets its sense of magic and impressiveness dip. Even when the vocal ends- and the outro. comes into effect- you are hooked and immersed. Finishing with a cocktail of snapping beats and languorous, aching strings- the track comes to its conclusion. Having packed so much into his agenda, Comfortable is a scintillating and hugely memorable track that struggles to remove itself from your brain.

Being a new convert to the wonders of Fola, I have spent a few hours investigating his back catalogue and beginnings. Some of his early track hints at the promise shown on Comfortable. To my mind his latest cut is the ultimate testament to his true talents and potential. Never has he produced so an urgent, honest and impassioned track- the Londoner means serious business. Before I commend Fola’s various distinctions and talents, it is worth reflecting on the track. The production values are incredible throughout. There are no detractions I could hint at; everything is mixed and blended perfectly. Sometimes there is a lack of clarity in the vocals- some of the lyrics get passed over because of over-urgency and pace. A similar fate has befallen solo singer George Ezra. His album has taken a slight knock because of similar issues. Some of his lines and songs are delivered with too much speed and urgency- meaning words can run into one another and lose their clarity. It is not a huge issue or problem to worry about- the busy and packed composition sometimes becomes a little over-zealous and pressing. In spite of some minuscule dents, the overall sound is one that grips and impresses hugely. The production does not come across as too polished and perfected- there is plenty of room for raw emotion and passion to come through. Having the sound and flavour of an old-school R ‘n’ B track, Fola seems at home and natural here. The brilliant inclusion of past masters- and their voices- bonds with current and contemporary vibes- the ensuing concoction is a mesmeric and scintillating one. The backing vocals add a huge amount of passion, delicacy, sweetness and sensuality. Seductive and breathy at times; heavy and hot the next, you become enraptured by the beauty and sparks that are elicited. It is worth focusing on the man himself; investigating his roles. Comfortable contains some concise and impressive lyrics. Never juvenile or ineffective, they are tight and well-considered- mixing honest and mature sentiments with libidinous lust, they defy expectations. A lot of modern-day artists are derided due to their lack of depth and lyrical ability; their pen often is not as sharp as their voice- Fola does not suffer this same setback. His words are as crackling and rich as his tones; lines and scenes mix detailed with oblique; they are direct and lush one moment; sparse and free-form the next. Demonstrating an ear for story and pace; an authority and love of classic R ‘n’ B and Soul kings, he mixes this into Comfortable- a song that is packed with detail and fascination. The composition keeps busy and mobile; it never lets seems to slow or lose its momentum. From the introductory crackles and pops, stylistic shifts are presented; multiple genre sounds are thrown in- it is a rich and variegated composition. When our hero lets his voice swoon and seduce, the composition is appropriately smooth and sensualised- kicking back and ensuring every note hits its mark. When electrified and urgent, the music matches this level of luster- strings and beats augment and rise in partnership. It is the vocal itself that impresses the most. Making every word sound convincing and utterly essential, Fola provides his more assured and stunning performance to date. Gone are the vocal treatments and Auto-Tune moments; the sound and sensation is of a naked and unmodified voice- one that packs an incredible punch. Taking in some sensations of Prince and Usher, the mixture of sweetened falsetto and velvet sensuality elicits some terrific reactions. Weaving and changing projection, the vocal matches the mobility and unexpectedness of the composition itself- making sure the song is insanely fresh and gripping. Overall you are left with a track that seems perfectly suited for the summer weather. It has such an insatiable and relaxing vibe, it is perfect for those lazy days and beach-side parties; able to soundtrack epic drives and long journeys, it is a song that has no boundaries. Able to unify balkanized clans of music-lovers, it supersedes and breaks barriers- it is not a song restricted to club members of R ‘n’ B and Soul. The relentless passion and elliptical promise (the track provides) means it is a ubiquitous and universal slice- a number that reminds you of better times.

A lot of my own cynicisms have been dispelled and eradicated. When I look at an artist’s biography- and see the words ‘X Factor‘ mentioned within- I am predisposed to balk and scoff with derision. It is understandable: my sense of irritability and rage is shared by the majority. Fola is an artist that has caused some creative inspiration and direction- my own music has been given a kick of new life. There are a lot of artists- on the scene- who project R ‘n’ B-cum-Soul machinations; sprinkle in some Pop gold-dust- ensure the resultant hybrid is as exciting as possible. Few contemporaries have a flair and quality that marks them aside from their peers- Fola is a talent with a clear identity and instantly resonating music. Comfortable is a cool and seductive slab that is impossible not to like- it has hallmarks of past giants, whilst retaining a very modern and personal voice. The London-based artist is going to make moves the rest of this year- including the release of his E.P.; make sure you keep your eyes peeled and trained. Being a fan and devotee of the likes of Michael Jackson and Smokey Robinson, I can hear that same blend of power, sweetness, passion and raw emotion- the deep and mesmeric words; the catchy and addictive codas- there is no reason to suggest Fola should restrict his sites and ambitions. With the music industry being tightly-packed and jostling, it is important to ensure those with genuine potential are given breathing room- allowed to move and grow with little repression. I have not heard all of Promise Land– I have surveyed the full body of Fola’s past. Seeing a development and evolution, the young star is getting stronger and more determined with each release- he is not contended to stick with one voice and style; changing and developing his art in accordance with his inspirations and desires. As I said up top: London is starting showcase some immensely promising musical talent. Having been suitably blown away by Dana McKeon’s blend of Beatbox-Pop and Soul, I did not think the capital had the ability to surprise and confound- bring out more acts like Fola and we shall see something incredible happening. Musicians- located elsewhere- are progressing and relocating to London; their itinerant and sojourn ambitions are seeing them settle and rest in the capital. It seems like the burning and white-hot hub for creativity and inspiration: an area of the world where so many different styles and genres are being represented. I do not think reality/talent shows are the most evil thing in the world; they are at least wholly unnecessary and cancerous- the artists that win the contests have provided no difference and quality to the music industry; their disposability and brevity is highly irritating. The acts that choose to do things honestly and without motive- the only reason you go on a talent show is for shallow fame and publicity- are going to be the ones the public will embrace and proffer. Too few innovative and surprising musicians arrive in the mainstream- new music tends to offer the best choice and sense of ambition. It will be fascinating to see what Fola does next- whether he brings out an L.P. or reinvents himself; takes his music across the world or focuses his energies on the here and now- whatever he has in mind, it is likely to be met with support and excitement. Before I wrap things up- and prime my mind for a new act and sound- I want to offer up some advice and tips- for new acts coming through. So many samey and predictable Indie bands get filtered through- the vague and unpalatable sludge that forms is causing tarnish and depression. Being a well-represented genre, a lot of the public are turning their attentions elsewhere- looking for music that differs and provides unfamiliar sensation. With the exception of some noticeable and well-known mainstream (and newly-bred Soul and R ‘n’ B artists), they are few and far between. When the alchemy is perfected; that potion and concoction is mixed with the right balance of ingredients, something wonderful can be stirred- strike the balance of sexiness and restrain and you are onto a winner. Comfortable is a song that has a soothing and sweaty heart; its soul is emotional and determined; its tongue sharpened and sexualised- the combustible coloured sands are mesmerising and eye-catching indeed. If you are unfamiliar with Fola and his past work- make sure you set time aside and investigate it with full creativity. His forthcoming E.P. is a bold statement from a deeply exciting and talented proposition- an artist that gives the music world an infusing slice of salacious cool and red-hot vibrancy. His voice and delivery is hard to ignore; his words universal and personal (all at once). If you are stuck for ideas this weekend…

LET Fola’s magic take your mind away.

About the Author:

https://musicmusingsandsuch.wordpress.com/about/

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Follow Fola:

Official:

http://www.officialfola.com/

Facebook:

https://www.facebook.com/officialfola

Twitter:

SoundCloud:

YouTube:

https://www.youtube.com/user/folatv

MySpace:

http://myspace.com/officialfola

Instagram:

http://instagram.com/sadiqmak
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Fola’s videos available via:

http://www.officialfola.com/#!video/cn53

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Fola’s music can be heard here:

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For all booking enquiries:

http://www.officialfola.com/#!contact/c1lhz

Album Review: All The Best Tapes- All The Best Tapes

ALBUM REVIEW:

All The Best Tapes

All The Best Tapes

9.5/10.0

All The Best Tapes cover art

All The Best Tapes is available from:

http://fxdrecords.bandcamp.com/album/all-the-best-tapes

TRACKLISTING:
I Want To Believe9.5/10.0
Nine Masks9.6
Life Of Gold9.5
Conservatoria in Threes9.4
The Iron Rod9.6
New Ribs9.6
Soft Light9.4
I’ve Been Bored Since 9/119.6
We Judged It By The Waves9.7

STANDOUT TRACK:
We Judged It By The Waves

DOWNLOAD:
Nine Masks, The Iron Rod, New Ribs, I’ve Been Bored Since 9/11, We Judged It By The Waves

RELEASED:
13th June, 2014

PRODUCED BY:
Bob Cooper & All The Best Tapes at H.Q. Studios, Manchester, U.K.

MASTERED BY:
Paul Hundeby at City Pro Recording, Florida, U.S.A.

LABEL:
FXD Records

GENRES:
Punk, Hip-Hop, Metal, Hardcore, Punk-Rap, Screamo

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Guided by the likes of At the Drive-In, The Ramones and Bad Brains; the Stoke-based trio provide raw and exhilarating songs- mixed with unexpected compositions (and surprises) they are a mobile army of sound. Visceral and direct; teasing and experimental, All The Best Tapes certainly leave impressions

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AFTER reviewing a run of tracks- from solo acts mostly…

I am stepping back into album territory. It is great to hear a band arrive with such a bang and fervency. My featured act has released a couple of records before- nothing as complete and explosive as their album. I shall investigate the band in more depth, yet want to bring up a couple of points. The first issue revolves around musical geography. Too many bands seem to be emanating from very particular spots- not a bad thing; it means that there is compartmentalisation and a division. London is hosting a fair few dynamic and stunning bands- solo acts too- that are capable of making huge splashes in the future. Up in Yorkshire- Leeds particularly- there are masses of new acts poking out- many of which I have reviewed. Whilst there are heavy and primal sounds coming from some Leeds-based Grunge masters; a fair amount of melody and beauty from the capital’s finest- finding artists (in-between- these areas)- is a hard task. Recently I reviewed the Devon-based band Lightknife; I have assessed some artists from Bristol, Southampton and Surrey- this is a rarity. Today I am looking towards the Midlands- a region that I am not overly-familiar with. Having a grand and busy musical history (a fair few bands have come from these locales)- not many new musicians emanate from here. It is a strange thing- when you think about where bands hail from- but there must be a collocation and reason (behind it). Obviously, London is making impressions due to the size of the city; the sheer number of musicians living here. Yorkshire is thriving because of the same reason- there are so many eager musicians there it is impossible to see a decline in quality and output. Elsewhere, you start to imagine what could be causing (a restriction). It may take some figuring out: for now, I am glad that a Midlands group is in my thoughts. In addition to being one of the most enlivening and exciting acts at the moment, they are putting Stoke back on the musical map. More associated with Robbie Williams- Slash was actually born there too- you will not get the two acts confused- our boys are a trippy and primal group that would make Williams wet his underwear. Having fallen in love with the likes of Allusondrugs- and spending the last week reviewing softer sounds- it is good to be back in gritty and lusting territory. Diversity and range are essential in music- ensuring that we have a great spread of artists leads to prosperity and a strong future. The Midlands boys not only take the listener to a busy and under-appreciated area for music; they provide a mixture of sounds I have not heard played. Their love of Psychedelia and Grunge marries with Prog. and Hardcore considerations- the resultant potion has been knocking people off their feet. Too many bands play things safe and predictably: not looking to fuse and experiment, they stick with what is familiar and tested. All The Best Tapes have built up a solid reputation and name: their previous work has captured critics and upped momentum and intrigue- bringing them to the here and now. With their self-titled album wetting mouths and setting tongues wagging, I better introduce the act to you:

Marcus Barker: Vocals & Guitar.
Luke Medlock: Bass, Vocals & Programming.
Danny Beardmore: Drums

Formed in the Post-Industrial wasteland of Stoke and Cast from a heavy obsession with Aliens, The Occult, Psychedelia and mind-bending sounds, All The Best Tapes fuse the melodious Chordal technicalities of Fusion Jazz, the grit of Hardcore and the shameless riffage of tripped out Prog into a glorious cacophony of skull fucking power. A departure from their previous offerings “This is not a record, This is All The Best Tapes” and “The Gnar” All The Best Tapes strip down to a three-piece to create a new wave of effects laden, cutting edge punk rock.”

When new acts come through, you can always see some restrictions and limitations from the off. Their initial moves have some timidity. All The Best Tapes went in hard and meaningful: listening to the likes of The Gnar tells you all you need to know- here is an act that mean business. Their huge range of influences- from Kate Bush to MC5- have been thrown into the mix- the sheer range of sounds and diversions they incorporate makes their music so intense and layered. Their album expands on early promise and gives a full summation of the boys- across the nine songs, you barely have chance to breathe; the passion and urgency that screams out is hard to brush off. It is not just the band’s pioneering blend that makes them so special- the quality and addictiveness of their songs stick in your mind. Not just a group that make a hell of a noise and racket; the lads ensure all of their numbers are deep and fascinating- some of their compositions and lyrics are among the finest I have heard this year. With the mainstream offering some spaces and gaps; it is high time that listeners and music-lovers embrace what new music is showcasing- welcoming the finest we have (and promoting their name). If the likes of Allusondrugs have shown anything; it is that by mixing heavy and brutal codas (with nuanced and more composed lines)- a huge amount of atmosphere and evocation can be elicited. All The Best Tapes have a bond that cements their music tightly- the sympatico and friendships they share makes all of their sounds come across as urgent and authoritative. The leaps forward they have taken- since their earliest work- shows a band that are getting better as they progress. The confidence and spirit they put out on their album makes you wonder just how more potent and effective they can become- they are an act that will certainly be making music for a while longer. Making such a fascinating and original sound, it seems the trio are going to have their sights set on the future- their momentum and passion leads me to believe they will be formulating new sounds and releases before too long. Before I get down to focusing on the band- and their music- I will conclude by stating just how impressive new music is. Strengthening and confounding by the month, I am always stunned by just how brilliantly-realised and bold fledgling sounds are- there are no jitters and false moments. Bands are dipping back into musical history; being inspired by their heroes and heroines- daring to incorporate a myriad of diverse and disconnected sounds together; to elicit something wonderful and fresh. All The Best Tapes have a huge cannon of favourite musicians; they do not limit their sites to specific genres and decades- meaning their ensuing sounds are as full-bodied and colourful as any you will hear.

Looking back at the work of All The Best Tapes and you get a glimmer of how they started out. On their debut, you got that exhausting and exhilarating listen. Songs such as Old Device demonstrated this primal and animalistic urge. The track builds and tempts the listener in. Melodic and restrained beginnings give way to pummel and rumble- the intro. expands and feasts without warning. Determined and raw vocals come to play- screeched and bellowed with lustful fury. Breathless and determined, the song never lets go of you. It is a Hardcore thrash; a Punk rush that is determined to get mosh pits excited and bustling. Pious Fool has warped and spacey starts. The Psychedelic/Prog.-Rock influences present themselves. With some touches of Muse and The Mars Volta it is warped and fascinating- completed with a Libertines-esque riff, you are drawn in. Eager to allow determination to succeed, the vocal then bursts and shouts. Propelled by constant percussive slams; an endless and smashing drive makes the track burrow into your brain. There are melodic areas and avenues that allow reflection and chance for refrain- the song has some great quiet-loud dynamics. Caterpillarism twangs and twiddles at the start; the Foo Fighter-esque anthemic intro. puts your mind in Indie/Grunge avenues- the track contorts and twists with abandon. One of the band’s most intriguing cuts, it has the potential to superpose Hardcore and Punk boundaries- find its way onto stations like XFM and Absolute. The Gnar saw the band become more ambitious and varied. All of the early hallmarks remained in place- the vocals particularly had no intention of calming down. Le Fingers has haunted and twisted lyrics. The songwriting is sharper and more fascinating; deeper and more varied- disturbed souls and skulls are featured here. Blood-curdling and deathly, the vocal flair and roar matches the intensity of the composition. Seven Pairs of Scissors gets down to business from the off- hardcore thrashes grab the listener by the throat. There is lyrical economy and concision here- the words are not needlessly unfocused and rambling; they are tight and measured. Poetic elements marry with direct and savage proclamations. Sweeter vocal interjections mix with spaced-out bliss- sharp shocks arrive to take you off of your feet. The title track is longer and more epic- than Seven‘- and begins with a pummeling and rambunctious percussion intro. Reminding me of Moby Dick by Led Zeppelin, it is a tantalising start. Byzantine and weird snatches of lines look at volcano haircuts and tour life- having no money and stealing as you go. The band show development and growth- from their debut. The lyrics are more fascinating and compelling- the stories and scenes they offer have more depth and story. The vitriol and anger is more overt and striking- the vocal performances are more impassioned and full. Mixing in some sweeter and more controlled moments, the compositional range increases and augments- the performances are tighter across the board. The current offerings (on their album) show more steps and progressions. Again, the band increase their confident and adventurousness. The palette become more varied and multicoloured; the themes and issues explored change too. I Want To Believe has stutter and sting; tumbling musical notation means there is a heady and unpredictable energy that runs through it. Vocal work is as focused and primal as any I have heard- less guttural at the beginning, I can detect the hallmark highs of The Gnar. Life Of Gold skips and catches you by surprise; the intro. is more Rock/Indie-influenced; calmer and softer than previous offerings. A bigger and wider track, the song builds and layers- that mixture of approachable personality and pained belting fuses perfectly- nothing sounds inorganic and forced. Changing direction and skin, the song is endlessly mobile and shifting. New Ribs goes back to frantic and desperate; the band elicit one of their most pressing and violent performances- it is a track that once more is destined for mosh-pit fights. Rousing the listener into a frenzy, it bowls you over with its sheer energy. I’ve Been Bored Since 9/11 is one of the most interesting cuts off of the album. A single release, it is more relatable and lovable. Whilst there are some controversial lyrics and subjects, the boys are not trying to terrorise and rebel against sanity- their songbook is packed with some standout and quotable lyrics. Not adding too much more, the band remain firm and solid. The Gnar was a big leap forward and was the most solidified the band have sounded. Their self-titled album is more ambitious and open; new sounds are mixed in; some new subjects explored- in terms of the overall sound and flavour, you get some familiar and relatable moments. The band did not need to reinvent themselves and improve too much- what we have now is the most rounded and defined representation of All The Best Tapes. The band performances are as tight as ever; the vocal sound is more rounded and solidified- a greater emotional range is presented now. With compositions that draw in multiple genres and diversions, the band have never sounded as alive and meaningful. It will be great to see where they go from here- if a new album or E.P. will come through. You can guarantee whatever comes will be imbued with the same headiness and raw energy (as their previous outings)- the boys are building in stature and momentum; focusing their sights on the future.

If you are looking for some other bands- that compare with All The Best Tapes. Being a Hardcore-Punk band, it is quite hard to draw in too many influences- it is not one of the most over-represented genres in music. The band themselves have a huge a list of influential bands; from U.S. to U.K. artists, the boys have clearly absorbed a lot of different artists. The Ergs! are a Punk-Rock U.S. band that have won legions of fans. When listening to the band’s (2007) album Upstairs/Downstairs, you get a dizzying listen. Songs range from a few seconds to 18 minutes; the head is spun and blown apart by the lack of consistency and predictability. The breakneck pace and ramalama melodies whiz by. The tracks all seem to end in an instant- they are so addictive and compelling that you have to listen to the album to draw it all in. Bratty and charming songs mix with some juvenile and infantile offerings- the band mix clever and smart with puerile. Although less silly than previous albums, there is still comedy and humour to be found. There is plenty of maturity and focus on the album- it certainly ages well. All The Best Tapes have a similar talent for mixing humour and pathos; portraying that frantic and frenetic pace- drawing the listener in for a thrill-ride of intensity. Less silly than The Ergs!, the band do take some of their influence- capable of putting plenty of humour and witness into the darkest of tracks. Before I look at some more U.S. influences, I will mention an unusual name: Chumbawamba. The legendary Brits had a hugely successful career and have influenced a lot of bands- including the Stoke trio. Their Tubthumper album is probably their finest moment. Here, Chumbawamba mix big Dance-orientated beats with anthemic and party-ready sing-alongs. The Pop and Dance elements overtake political radicalism; the band ensure their music can be chanted from the terraces- there is laddishness and drunkenness; rebellion and defiance. All The Best Tapes draw this into their quiver: whilst not as chantable as the British icons, they do compel you to sing along and become invigorated- similarly rousing and fascinating, the band have political and socio-economic motivations. When you read some of the band’s lyrics, they rally against governmental forces; there is dissatisfaction to be found- angry young men being short-changed. Drunken nights and recklessness come to play too- like Chumbawamba, the boys recognise the vitality of youthfulness and lack of inhibitions. The cottage industry pioneers make sure all of their songs are intelligent and focused; distinct and memorable- later albums throw in more melodic vocals and sweeter Folk songs. All The Best Tapes showcase an intelligent side; mingle it with anger and rage and you have quite a concoction. Away from Punk bands, The Flaming Lips have had an effect on the endeavouring trio. If you look at The Flaming Lips’ album Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots, it topped many critics’ end-of-year polls. Haunting as it is splendid, the L.P. mixes lush electronic sympathy. Whilst the band have more sunshine and upbeat sedimentation (than All The Best Tapes), the best comparisons are uncovered when digging deeper- the ruminations of everyday struggle and survival. Older and more traditional- for The Flaming Lips- values mixed with new experiments and sentimentality. The album Yoshimi‘ use psychedelic reveries from simple sounds and compositions- something more frantic always threatens to come out. The unorganised and primal rushes look at battles and wars; fighting forces of repression and hardship come out. The album looked at metal warriors and robotic controllers- if you look at All The Best Tapes, it draws a lot of comparables. The music has developed from the early days; mixes bittersweet themes within psychedelic swathes; huge and epic landscapes- the height of the band’s creative output. The anguish and pain that The Flaming Lips put into their current moves- The Terror– shows there is fear and black hole rage. All The Best Tapes match this level of inflagration and fire- the lyrics (by both bands) do not go for the obvious; they investigate deep themes but present some oblique and poetic moments. The Ramones are a Punk act that seem to have ressonated with the trio. Having taken a lot of guidance from U.S. sources, it seems that the hard and frantic American bands do things best. Albums such as Subterranean Jungle took Hard-Rock riffs and joined them with a Punk heart. The album is alive with meaning and energy; it draws audiences in and is the most pleasing of their mid-career efforts- subtle rhythms and hook-laden tracks mark the album out as one (of the band’s) finest. The vitality and sheer urgency of the disc calls for repeated listens. If you witness the self-titled debut- from The Ramones- you hear those early signs of genius. The album was a firecracker in the Rock mainstream: unexpected and rare, it redefined music. The themes and lyrics are simple; the songs are back-to-basics gems; lust and need are projected with as much guts and violence as you could imagine- wit, weirdness and lust spilled from the speakers. The blinding speed and relenetlessness can be applied to All The Best Tapes– from the very first notes they do not give you a chance to rest. Twisted takes on Pop convention make the Stoke trio a like-minded act; they subvert expectations and conventions to provide something radical and bone-shaking- the intoxicating rampancy of each number gets under your skin. Whilst All The Best Tape‘s songs aren’t always as concise as those within The Ramones, you cannot deny that comparable vigour and youthful anger. Horror schlock, maniacal stupidity and gleeful violence came through in The Ramones’ finest work- it is something that our endeavouring trio have taken on board. City Of Ifa and Allusondrugs are two modern bands that should be mentioned. Whilst not direct influences, you can draw some lines between the groups. The experimental movements City Of Ifa present define their sound- they are a pioneering and ambitious group that mix Screamo with Prog.-Rock facets- mixed together it is a heady and stupefying blend. All The Best Tapes take elements of Prog. masters and provide their own Screamo take- they are a similarly urgent and passionate band. Allusondrugs instill Grunge glory with some Punk and Hardcore shades- their fiery and enraptured codas are enlivening and seducing Yorkshire crowds. Having been booked for the Leeds Festival, the band are striking a chord- the public want to hear more of their scintillating music. All The Best Tapes have a level of grit and blood-lust that matches the Yorkshire outfit: their songs are as packed and atmospheric; the vocals as gripping and intense- you imagine festival spots are awaiting the Stoke boys. Being a fan of Bad Brains, I can hear some of the Americans in All The Best Tapes. The Thrash-Metal-cum-Hardcore minglings cemented the band as one of the most evocative and potent in the U.S.- influencing everyone from Nirvana to Jeff Buckley. The band’s self-titled debut was a cassette-only issue; the propheteers of Punk turned into Heavy Metal gods- over the course of a track. The rage is channelled into positivity and drive. When their I Against I album dropped, the declaration of violence was a focused and concise work. Funneling all their influences together, the band used bel canto baritone; screeching falsetto- the visceral and beautiful tie together. Here, the group present passionate refrains and tender moments; virtuosic displays are as synonymous as raw directness and demented blisters. The vocals range from machine gun-fire delivery to considered and teasing- the same elements All The Best Tapes draw together. The rampant and staggering Metal and Hardcore jams- Bad Brains have perfected- inspire legions of bands (whether they know it or not) and you can hear embers within All The Best Tapes– that same inimitable sense of surprise and quality. There are a few more names I should mention here. At The Drive-In count as one of the Stoke band’s influences. Cedrix Dixier’s ferocity and incomparable vocal luster made albums like Acrobatic Tenement so special. The way the songs contains subtlety and nuance mean softness and melody sit alongside fury and vermilion rage. Tempo shifts and rhythm changes make the album endlessly fascinating- something that All The Best Tapes have employed. The trio ensure that their songs are not one-dimensional and samey. Snaking and edgy bass notes combine with dual guitars and edgy percussion- the same qualities you can hear in Acrobatic Tenements. Catchiness and power fuses with intense and driving Punk riffs; the Texan band consecrated this in In/Casino/Out. The last two acts I will mention are MC5 and Fugazi. The former are U.S. legends that changed the face of music with Kick Out the Jams. The album remains one of the most immediate and timeless Punk/Hardcore records ever made. On that album, the entire band were in-tune and in-step. The ferocity and firepower of the guitars, bass and percussion were only matched by the authoritative and thunderous vocals. The firepower and back-breaking pace of the songs threatened to combust at any moment- the band gained legendary status in next to no time. While MC5 incorporate more tender and restrained numbers, you can draw comparisons- with All The Best Tapes. If you have not heard of Fugazi, then you should do- not only have their inspired the Stoke trio; they are a phenomenal and underrated group.Also inspiring the likes of Blur, their legacy is timeless. Repeater was the debut effort (from Fugazi)- an album that hit the ground running. Later works such as In on the Kill Taker stepped away from the early sounds: rusty and nail-scraping guitars joined with unappetising moments. Whilst the force and unending urgency of the album can be seen as off-putting- Screamo and Hardcore is not that digestible- the tracks offer plenty of treats and recommendations. Diverse tracks see lurching and crawling numbers sit with explosions of aggression- the sequencing across the band’s back catalogue is impressive. All The Best Tapes ensure they are as smart and considerate- when it comes to tracklisting. Liveliness, twisted humour; random skronks and plinking notes nestle within gut-kicking and brainy acidity. Fugazi are still producing music and evolve from album to album- offering something new into the bargain. All The Best Tapes place off-kilter and random notes inside atomic bomb blasts; ear-shattering emotional larceny- they seem the U.K. equivalent of Fugazi. If you are inclined towards any of these acts- you should check out All The Best Tapes. If you are off-out by any adjectives and descriptions; balk at the idea of relentless force and urgency- you should still give the music a try. Melody, experimentation and beauty lingers where you least expect it. The Stoke band have perfected their own blend and want to embrace listeners- not repel them. If you seek music that gets you invigorated and builds you up, investigate the group- you won’t regret it.

The blushes of silence are spared instantly by I Want To Believe. A clattering and tumbling psychedelic intro. gets things off to the races. Putting me in mind of The Mars Volta and At the Drive-In, it is a dizzying and head-spinning way to kick the album off. Melodious and catchy, you are caught up in it. Soon, it levels off and continues its aural assault- that colourful and insatiable gleefulness elicits a smile of contentment. Before long, our hero approaches the mic. Words “proof positive” reflect across the night; the light reflects across the sky. The determination and passion of the vocal rules the sound; you cannot get away from the urgency of the delivery. Calm, measure and melody still linger in the background- the song is not too forceful and overwhelming. With the vocal growling and graveled, you wonder how he has any vocal chords left- it is impressive how strong and consistent that primal belt is. Dissatisfaction and discontent seems to be on our hero’s mind- he is angered and striking against the world. As with previous All The Best Tapes releases, byzantine and oblique lyrical snatches mix with the direct and potent- the band like to ensure that things are not too simplistic or detached. The light splits “across the sky“- images and scenes fill your mind; apocalyptic perhaps or slightly less epic, the atmosphere is built and expanded. Backed by a militaristic and pummeling percussive smash, the avalanche never relents. A lot of emphasis is put on mood and force as opposed to clarity. Lacking lyric accompaniment, some of the words will get lost among the effusive and rifled projection- the most vital snatches are intelligible and clear. Having to piece together the story through occasional glimmers of clarity, you focus upon composition and vocal- both of which press on the brain. The warped and spacey composition is robotic and intergalactic- juddering and evolving it beeps and crawls; evolves and strikes. Mixing the psychedelic Prog.-Rock of The Mars Volta with some of the vibrancy of Bad Brains, the parable catches the imagination- the transformations and delineation is stunningly realised and fascinating. With our hero spitting against repressive forces- “you’re not making it up“- the demented charm of the composition comes into play- those colours and lines combine to create some mesmeric moments. Tumbling and dizzy guitar spirals unite with scattershot percussion; electronics buzz and percolate- the vocal growl is lustful and pugnacious. The band’s incredibly tight and impressive performance stands the song out- creating the most effective and direct opener I have heard. Towards the final stages, a kick-ass and white-hot guitar riff bounces and jumps: restrained and measured it is a catchy and indelible punch that takes the song in a new direction- stretches your brain open. Mingling At the Drive-In, Fugazi and MC5, the boys whip up some Punk flair and rabble for the closing seconds- it slows in the closing seconds bit by bit; a gorgeous and lilting last note gives the song a Calypso/tropical feel. Having covered so much ground and blown the mind, the boys do not let the pace drop. Nine Masks begins more strikingly and harder. That same mixture of high and low notes- on guitar and bass- project colours and myriad emotions- the restless and ambitious introduction gets your feet and fists pumping. Swaying Blues-Rock guitars pervade behind Punk/Metal-tinged percussion- the combination combines melody and harmony with raw sexuality and grit. The mesmeric unpredictability shows its hand again. The composition slams and feasts on bones; it drops down and starts to stumble- before calming and seamlessly blending into tranquil and romantic calms. Our hero takes his voice from blood-curdling into reflective within the space of a few seconds. Perhaps aimed at his sweetheart he asks: “Did you ever think of me?“- they are such the perfect pair. The passionate and springing bass adds some luster and majesty; the Blues-cum-Jazz combination is a beautiful treat- the sweet falsetto vocals a perfect instrument for reflection and personal introspections. Gripped by a new sound, your mind is eased. Turning the mood on a dime, the song explodes and carpet bombs. From the calm of before, we go into Metal/Screamo territory- the vocal bellows and growls like Satan on fire; the guitars stagger and violate; the percussion joins the frenzy. Still mixing in some sweeter and breathy notes and vocals, the juxtapositions are incredible- one half of your brain is enraptured in the delirium; the other soothed by the gentility of the interjections. Taking our hero aside, the composition is given chance to roost: the spindling and delirious riffs marry some Mars’-esque psychedelia with the Indie anthemics of Foo Fighters and The Libertines- the band are able to be distinct and populist all at the same time. You can sense some disarray under the skin of our hero- the insatiable and blinding switch from romantic to blood-lusting is phenomenal- by the final moments you find yourself running out of breath. Impressed by the continued determination and passion (of the band), it is another song that gets into your mind- howling execrations and paens of vengefulness. After an emphatic 1-2, you wonder just what Life Of Gold will offer up. The opening moments retain the band’s distinct and familiar sound- the initial phases here are more buoyant and celebratory. Gone are the devilish rushes and insanity to be replaced by something spring fresh and harmonised. Imbued with plenty of power, the opening riff has charm a-plenty. Stormy and weather-proof, the mixture of sensations elicited strike the imagination- its simplicities and complexities subvert expectations and ready you for the ride that is forthcoming. Becoming hardened and more projectile, the juddering and snatching guitars focus. Echoed and held, the electronics are punctuated by snaring and rifled percussion- the blend of eerie-cum-atmospheric builds the tension and sense of occasion. Dreams have been wasted and there is perturbation summoned from our frontman: his voice is reliably firm and rampant. Mixing that blend of quiet and loud, the song transforms and mutates as it progresses- positivity comes into effect as the words develop; there is less overt discrimination and rebellion here. Sounding less castrated and more concentrated, the vocal performance is as emphatic and interchangeable as the previous number. Amazed at how much weaponry the band have at their disposal, the composition and stylisations transmogrify and evolve- the boys are not contended to rest on laurels and offer nothing but feral noise and attack. After a hypnotic and unexpected trio (of songs), Conservatoria in Threes intrigues you with its title alone. A short song, we see hell-fire, brimstone and the “face of God” lobbied into the song (with nary a by-your-leave). Wasting no time with introductions and welcomes, the band launch straight into the vocal organism. Catching you by surprise, you swear you are entering the song at the one-third mark- it is a disarming and unexpected moment. After you compose your thoughts, you start to relax. The switch between ecstatic and rushing- calmed and reflective concessions- occurs in short bursts: there is not the same experimentation and freewheelin’ sound (as with previous tracks). More level-headed and simple than the opening trio, the track is by no means minor or second-best- its beauty comes with focus. The composition concentrates less on diversity and multifariousness; more towards emotion and atmosphere- the band combine seamlessly to back up the hero. With his voice shifting from sweet and ethereal- to animatistic and urgent- the song provides a cleansing and much-needed interval- another glimpse into the band; their indefatigable breadth of adventurousness and ambition. The Iron Rod arrives next. Squalling and raptured guitar coda gets things under way- teed up by a rampant and lascivious percussive weave, our hero is keen to come to the mic. A buffet and banquet of dark and fragmented images. Highlighted by vocals- which switch from bellowing and satanic to measured and spectral- the song packs a huge punch. The band ensure that your body is not allowed to rest or settle; the amount of intrigue and colour they provide is impressive. Between the bellicose and frantic Death-Metal/Hardcore slams, there are beautifully reflective and intelligent Jazz-Rock parables. Reminding me of Aja-era Steely Dan, its breezy and effortless beauty contrasts brilliantly with the rabble and desperation of the vocal. Displaying the conviction and authority as the likes of Bad Brains, At the Drive-In and MC5, the boys keeps things mobile and fascinating. The amount of consideration and thought put into the composition tells you how much the song means to them- you can hear the passion and work they have incorporated; there are no lazy or loose moments. Towards the two-thirds mark, there is an extended instrumental swathe. The lads subtly build the tension and augment their centrifuge of kaleidoscopic Jazz notations. By the 2:41 stage, urgent and emotive guitar notes start to infuse and commingle- the track slowly develops and you sense that a final explosion is going to occur. Becoming more twisted and snarling, The Iron Rod is not done with its attack- our hero is coming back. Ensuring his messages and voice are not forgotten, the sense of urgency and determination resonate strong. New Ribs is a track that has been gathering critical acclaim and attention. One of the L.P.’s longer tracks, it begins with a vocal assault. Coming in hard and fast, the vocal is as ecstatic and to-the-point as it has ever been- managing to restrain itself and switch voices. Fatigue and insomnia are lobbied in- the lack of sleep is making the hero feel so tired. The guitars- on the track- demonstrate a new side and sound: trippy and experimental, they mix Psychedelia, Indie, Rock and Pop. Not as virulent and barbed wire as on previous offerings, there is a greater consideration towards emotion and support. The vocal is at its more interesting and unexpected: between sighing and delicate soothes are violent and raged bursts- that mixture is quite a psychotropic and heady proposition. Displaying as much range as in any song, our hero showcases the quality and limitlessness of his voice- giving the words and track depth and authority. Once more, the band tempt in some sun-kissed and Jazz-infused notes- romantic and seductive, they add something extra to proceedings. After the sheer rush and pace of the tracks, it is a surprise to find that Soft Light is the ante-penultimate cut. Beginning with some gentle and elliptical notes, the track soon ensures that anger and explosion are provided. Subsuming the title’s promise, that ecstatic 180 begins a violated and rebellious vocal assault- our hero produces one of his most insatiable and frenzied vocal performance. Able to provide ample light and relax, the majority of the performance is taken up with inflamed and pissed-off projection. Supported by an army of juddering and brain-melting sounds, the song is a spares no-one. Our frontman is at his most impassioned and direct here. The way he manages to snake his voice is incredible: shifting course and pace, it is one of the most distinct performances on the set. When calmed and emotive, I caught glimmers of Terrence Trent D’Arby and Thom Yorke- believe it or not. Few modern vocalists have such a multifarious and staggering range- the band provide equal mesmerisation. Bass notes drive and attack; they then merge into jazzy and trickling. The guitars have sting and venom the one moment; transforming into relaxed and sedate before you know it- the percussion has a similar unpredictability and surprise. A modicum of reflection and calm is offered during the final moments: the composition keeps clattering and pervading; it is not as insatiable and repressed as previously. The single I’ve Been Bored Since 9/11 causes tongue-wagging before a note has been uttered. Whichever way you interpret it, you cannot deny its immediacy and urges. The intro. starts with a frantic percussive tumble; instantly dissipating and giving way to melodic guitar, the band unite all of their previous highs into the mix. After a brief grab for glory, our hero comes into the spotlight. That endless sense of urgency is represented in various different shades. Grumbled and bellowed vocals are mingled with strained and wracked utterances. The dislocation and anger come through with alarming directness and meaning. Our frontman ensures that his voice and words are heard- the unease and anxiety is not uncomfortable, egregious or off-putting; it is insistent and gripping. The guitar work is particular stand-out during the track. Weaving and tripping, there is a heady and swirling majesty created- strained and vibrating notes are tempted into proceedings. Not succumbing to the heady highs of previous numbers, the vocal is more concerned with concentration and focus- ensuring the messages and central missive resonates. Trippy and weird, the guitars incorporate Robert Fripp, The Mars Volta and Muse- the combinations of unrelated notes is a tantalising treat. The music- when All The Best Tapes compose- mix various styles and themes; incorporating various styles, whatever feels right goes into the music. Throughout I’ve Been Bored Since 9/11, you can tell a lot of study and thought has been expended. The musicianship and experimentations are impressive; so many different emotions and contours are explored- it is perhaps the richest and most rewarding song on the album. Perfectly priming the senses for the album’s swan-song. The longest track on the album, We Judged It By Waves starts with a reliably exciting and action-packed beginning. The boys weave colours and tapestries together; the combination of Psychedelic freestyle and Jazz-inspired motifs come together exquisitely. Hard and vengeful, the opening onslaught pricks the senses- readies you for what is to come. Open and expansive, the band allow the composition a chance to implore- so much ground and emotion is summoned up with the schizoid blends. Going out with a bang, the rampant and primeval percussion tees up electric guitar noodlings; the pace changes again and the boys let their instruments ignite. Compelling and gripping, the sheer rush and headiness of the intro. never relents- you wait for a vocal that seemingly never comes. Caught up in the mesmerising grip of the composition, the tight and incredible performance is a delirious and staggering treat. The song has such a flair for experimentation and Psychedelia: the band throw in so much weight and striations that you struggle to absorb it all. Juxtaposing hell-yeah fist-pummel and drunkening and drugged swagger, the listener is immersed in a whirlpool of insanity. Freak-outs of biblical proportions are overtaken by a carnivorous and yowling beast of a line. The percussion patters and tempts; the guitar echoes and echoes. Transforming the rampancy of previous efforts, the song mutates into something darker and shadowy. Atmospheric and hunting, this coda is traded with a brevity of attack- combining with one another, these diverse strands seem perfectly natural and essential. Pausing and resting, the band then offer explosions and rises. The pauses increase and elongate; a calmer and woozier smoke bellows in- it is hazy and delirious in its movements. Ethereal and ecumenical electronic sounds give the track a reverence and saintly side- sitting with the calmed guitar you are given chance for reflection and rest. All of the sonic words have been offered; so many different scenes and avenues have been explored- with a fading light, the track comes to an end. It completes a splendid album that is impossible to compare with anything else- it is one of the most immediate and relentless collections of the year.

It is quite a task trying to sum up a Herculean and epic album. There are hardly any negatives I can point at really. It would be great to see some lyrics accompany the album- perhaps on the BandCamp site. On previous efforts, All The Best Tapes put their lyrics together with the tracks- it would be good to see them accompany their album. Due to the intensity of the vocal and the attack of the composition, it can be hard interpreting and understanding a lot of the lyrics. Most of the words lack necessary intelligibility and decipherability- it is not a huge point however. Having the lyrics would allow interpretation and study: reviewers such as myself would be able to dig deeper and extrapolate true meanings and definitions. The album rarely lets up with its heaviness and assault- it means it can be an exhausting listen for the uninitiated. The album is best enjoyed and appreciated in chunks: sitting down and investigating a few songs at a time is the best way to start. These minor considerations do not detract from the fact All The Best Tapes is one of the most urgent and compelling albums of the year. It is not a huge drag that some of the words are lost; the emphasis is very much on the overall mood and sound. With incredible and perfect sequencing, the album does not lag or suffer any setbacks. The best tracks are appropriately arranged and deployed; the heavier and most primal numbers are spaced out- meaning you do not get fatigued and weighed-down. Although the production does mean the vocals lack complete clarity and concision, it perfectly blends all the various instruments and sounds. Such an ambitious and wide-ranging album would suffer- were the lines and notes mixed incorrectly. Due to some precise and expert production, the compositions are allowed to breathe and inspire- the listener is allowed to absorb all of the disparate strands and stories. Before I applaud the band’s players, I shall mention the songs themselves. Never aimlessly wandering and bloated, they are tight and focused missles. The longest tracks clock in at a few minutes; even the grand-standing finale leaves you wanting more. Their nuance and sheer weight really bowls you over. The band have stated- in interviews- how inspired they are by different genres; concerned with getting their sound just so- you can hear just how hard they have worked; how much effort has been expended. Each number offers glimpses of genius and mesmerisation- whether it is a riff or vocal projection, you are witnessing a band with few rivals and comparables. On that note, it is great to hear such immediate and primal music. So many bands have limits and barriers- All The Best Tapes seem to define themselves by how hard they can push and encapsulate- damned be any borders and rules. Although the album is predominantly heavy and overwhelming, it is not something that should be ignored or dismissed. If you are clever and considerate- when investigating- you will revel in its potency and charms. After a while all of the music reveals its beauty- you will be immune to any fractious and jarring elements. The band performances and turns are what makes the songs so incredible. Percussion work throughout is staggering. Eliciting the strength and pummle of a dozen octupuses, the flailing and pulverising moments put me in mind of Dave Grohl, John Bonham and Neil Peart. Beardmore marks himself out as one of the finest and more authoritative drummers in the U.K. Few percussionists are able to sound as effortless when pounding with fury- he is adept at offering something gentler and more inviting. When songs and vocals are more restrained, the percussion provides ample emotion and reflection. Not just a simple and one-directional performance, Beardmore creates scintillating fills and unexpected twists- showing the expertise and talent of a modern-day Grohl. The most urgent and primal moments of the album are created by the percussion and its emphatic guidance. Medlock’s contributions are stunning and mesmeric. In addition to offering spacey and trippy electronics; stunning programming- his bass work is phenomenal. Jazz-inspired and sexy the one moment; driving and guiding the next, the amount of force, rhythm, lyricism and passion is deeply impressive. The multi-instrumentalist colours the songs with his own inimitable and unique touches: combining seamlessly with his band, Medlock showcases a huge talent and impressive amount of skill. Most bass players tend to be in the band to keep songs levelled and together- not stepping far outside boundaries. Medlock summons the force and conviction of an entire band- able to weave so much richness and emotion into each song, the album would be weaker without him. When offering vocal support, he brilliantly backs our hero- his voice is incredibly diverse and striking; capable of lustful rage and tempestuousness- our man is a Jack-of-all-trades. Barker is the voice and guitarist that leads by (fine) example- one of the most arresting and phenomenal frontmen in all of music. I was staggered how strong and consistent his voice was- throughout the album- and stunned he did not shred his throat to bits. Few singers have such a huge range of emotions and styles at their disposal. Barker is just as natural and impressive when unleashing his falsetto beauty (as he is gripped in the intensity of delirious rage and aggression). Having been nurtured with Jazz, Folk and Hardcore influences, his voice draws all of this in- he is not just a point-and-shout Screamo merchant. Too many bands- who play similar music- have a lead with little variety and potential. In Barker, they have a genuine star- someone whose divine tones have a hell of a lot of potential. It will be great to see just where they explore on the next record. With some epic and electrifying shredding, our hero lets his axe run riot. Inspired by the likes of At the Drive-In and The Ramones, Barker mixes schizophrenic and psychedelic jams with Punk swagger- de-touring via Indie and Rock avenues. Never sounding unfocused or fragmented, his guitar work seamlessly bonds divisive and multitudinous sounds and genres together- giving the songs a solidity and uniformity. The entire band work wonderfully together: tight and focused, they are a unit that are unlikely to break up at any point- such is the brotherly bond, all of their music sounds utterly convincing and urgent. In All The Best Tapes they have demonstrated what a force they are. Maybe incapable of transforming cynics into fans, it will appeal and resonate with those whom seek depth and texture- lovers of music that dares to be different and better.

With all my words- nearly expounded- I have to come to a conclusion- point to the future of the band. If you are not a fan of Punk, Punk-Rap, Hip-Hop and Grunge then All The Best Tapes are an act that can convert your thinking- they inject plenty of calm, passion and melody into their direct and punchy mandates. The determination and ambition they demonstrate makes their album such a terrific treat- you are powerless to escape the wonders it offers forth. I hope the boys come down from their home venues and rock out London- take their music around the U.K. and think about wider considerations. Having cemented their reputation and name in the Midlands, the trio are on the warpath- after their album was released, they drew in a mass of new fans. I for one would love to see them in the live environment; check out how their recorded releases translate in the flesh- just what a force of nature they are. Having witnessed some fervent and striking bands come through, my mind struggles to take it all in- see just who is going to make it big in the future; which acts are going to remain in the memory. A few I have reviewed will have some short-term acclaim; others are sure to transcend to the mainstream- others leave me weighing things up. I feel All The Best Tapes will make it all the way to the halcyon and lofty heights- they will not want to get there too quickly. Keen to keep playing to local crowds and make honest and personal music, you can tell just how much fun the guys are having- they are determined to keep working and press on. With a sound and projection that is perfectly ready and primed for the venues and festivals (of the summer); it will only be a few years before the Stoke trio are a familiar name on the airwaves. Having digested their self-titled debut, the boys have a lot to say; they have anger and dissatisfaction in their minds- the way they channel it is alarming and captivating. It is not just rage that defines their motives and inspirations: the group have such a love for vintage and classic music, they stretch their palette and motifs to cover issues such as love, modern life and meaning. Everything is draped around electrifying and direct sounds; the performances are uniformly tight and together- the songs are nuanced; meaning you keep coming back to the album to seek out hidden meanings and new findings. Before I wrap things up, I will dovetail back to my point about musical geography. Leeds boys Allusondrugs are leading Yorkshire by the teeth; putting the county squarely in the music world’s sights. London are making sure they do not lag behind at all- the diversity and range coming through is staggering. As much as I yearn to hear new artists from these regions, I am more keen to seek out new and unexpected treasures. All The Best Tapes have a distinct and rare combination of sounds that means they stand out- not contented to follow the pack, the boys have more determination and urgency than most bands I have encountered. With that unbreakable and solid bond, the music on their album is scintillating, action-packed and colourful- investigate what they have to offer and find out for yourself. With a lot of bland and boring music still being trotted out; a huge amount of musicians not pushing boundaries and limits- it is always a relief when a brave and hungry act come along. Perhaps not powerful enough to sway those that prefer Pop and Jazz sounds, the boys will at least capture some new hearts- people who seek out musical swagger and lust will love All The Best Tapes. As the year progresses, the boys are continuing to play and seduce; taking their music around The Midlands. I hope they are thinking further south: train their methodology down my way and embrace the eager and hungry fans down here. Their music translates across the country; there are plenty of venues that would promote the lads. Whilst they keep plugging and pervading, I am keen to listen (again) to All The Best Tapes– an album that never lets go of you. If the Midlands (and Stoke) have any other similarly terrific bands waiting to press through, I will say this…

KEEP them coming.

 

About the Author:

https://musicmusingsandsuch.wordpress.com/about/

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Follow All The Best Tapes:

Official:

http://www.allthebesttapes.co.uk/

Facebook:

https://www.facebook.com/allthebesttapes

Twitter:

SoundCloud:

BandCamp:

http://allthebesttapes.bandcamp.com/

ReverbNation:

http://www.reverbnation.com/show/9468372

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All The Best Tape videos available via:

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC3owVF2ZP6Vjm9JnLpK50OA

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All The Best Tape’s music can be heard here:

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Tour dates available at:

http://www.last.fm/music/All+The+Best+Tapes

Track Review: Dana McKeon- Street Art

TRACK REVIEW:

Dana McKeon

Street Art

9.6/10.0

Street Art is available from:

Purchase the E.P. Street Art at:

http://danamckeon.bigcartel.com/

Written & Composed by:

Dana McKeon

Produced & Recorded by:

Treana Morris, Vernon Lake, Daniel Cassar, Dana McKeon

Main Vocals & Beatbox:

Dana McKeon

Backing Vocals:

Treana Morris, Vernon Lake, Dana McKeon

Instrumentation :

Treana Morris, Vernon Lake, Dana McKeon, Daniel Cassar

Music video by:

Take 2 Entertainment

Concept & Story:

Dana McKeon, Carlos Debattista, Abigail Mallia

Director:

Abigail Mallia

Production:

Mirko Galea, Julian Calleja

Director of Photography:

Mirko Galea

Camera:

Isaac Fenech

Assistant Director:

Julian Calleja

Editing:

Abigail Mallia

Colouring:

Mirko Galea

Makeup, Hair & Body Art:

 Justin Brincat

UV & Reverse Graffiti:

Moose Curtis, Amands Ericsson

Street Art E.P. Photography by:

Pink Portico

Artwork by:

Andrea Meli

GENRES:

Pop, Soul, Beatbox-Pop, Acoustic-Folk

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Over the coming weeks, Dana McKeon will be seducing the nation’s capital. Having established her name and reputation in Malta, her blend of Beatbox (and Pop-cum-Soul) beauty stands her aside from the competition. Street Art is a vibrant, bursting and uplifting song (from one of the most fascinating artists currently working). If you need a redemptive and inspiring tale; something to compel the mind and heart- look no further…

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I have been lucky enough to review a string of different…

songs, from some very diverse artists. Canadian bands that provide Grunge and Indie have sat alongside British Electro.Pop- every time a track comes to my attention I am provided with something new and alert. Giving me a chance to investigate an artist or band- in a wider sense- it also points as to what new music is coming up with. Not just contended to project the minimum of intrigue, the world’s freshest and most urgent acts are to be commended- the quality coming through is quite startling. It is not just the range and diversity that is impressive- the passion and conviction summoned is breathtaking. Because of this incredible competitiveness and choice, the market is going to see quite a battle- the artists that make it to the mainstream are those that truly separate themselves aside. There are loads of Indie bands; a lot of Pop acts- our fair share of Grunge acts. When someone comes along that gives the listener something unexpected and fresh- THAT is what is going to stand them apart. My featured artist is someone I am very excited about. Hailing from Malta, it gives me a chance to return to the country- a nation that has provided Fran Galea (Chess). One of my regular review subjects, Chess is one of Malta’s most distinctive and popular musicians- her stunning songs have won awards and airplay; she is going from strength-to-strength. Being a fan of Dana McKeon, Chess is familiar with her work- she has told me how impressed she is by the music and stunning effects it elicits. Keen to seek her out, I was bowled over by how approachable and friendly she is. Keen to connect with fans and followers, she is one of the nicest and warmest musicians out there- that personality is equalled by her scintillating and magnificent music. Before I introduce her to you, I want to mention (a practically unheard-of genre): Beatbox-Pop. Being a devoted boyfriend to London, I bask in the capital’s warmth as much (as my wallet will allow me)- my first port-of-call is always Covent Garden. Escaping from its cramped and tourist-packed lifts, I make my way out of the tube station- if you do so during a Friday evening, you are in for a treat. Leading into the weekend, a selection of Beatbox artists play outside of the station- their freestyle and stream-of-consciousness is exhilarating and hugely entertaining. Drawing in huge crowds, the vocals are phenomenal- they rap with authority; the tics and mannerisms are perfect; the passion and flair is electrifying. Sound effects are thrown in too; the Beatbox masters provide the sound of percussion, electronics and instruments- all siphoned through their elastic and multifarious pipes. Two things stagger me (when considering them): why do we not see more of them; how come it seems male-dominated? Perhaps there are parts of London- and the world- where there are a lot of female Beatbox purveyors- around London there seems to be far more men. The genre and style is something that instantly connects with people- tourists and pedestrians stop and are entranced; they applaud widely and are caught up- it is the most immediate and gripping form of music out there. Mixing in Pop and Soul elements- to Beatboxing- can give it an extra layer of beauty and style. Drawing in mainstream and contemporary touches makes it primed for glory. There is a huge gap and space waiting to be filled- there are so few Beatbox-Pop/Soul acts being played on commercial radio, it stuns me slightly. Dana McKeon is capable of bringing about a revolution- changing attitudes and giving the world a much-needed dose of magic. Being a new follower of hers, I have been seduced and overwhelmed by Street Art– in addition to her videos and collaborations. Having performed with the likes of Bruno Mars; enticed and inspired legions of people- it seems like a matter of time before she is familiar to everyone. Before I carry on, let me introduce her to you:

With her debut single Street Art topping the Airplay Charts in Malta and featuring on radio stations worldwide, Dana McKeon is making waves with her fresh Beatbox-Pop music. Dana is a Maltese singer-songwriter & international beatbox pioneer, having officially represented Malta and single-handedly putting the island on the Worldwide Beatbox Map. Dana’s music is a unique display of genre-fusion and versatility, showcasing world-class vocal percussion techniques, a captivating voice and synchronised multi-instrumentalisation. Her musical ventures have taken her all around Europe, with performances ranging from intimate, high-profile acoustic gigs to large-scale concerts where she got to turn up the volume for audiences of up to 5000, both solo and alongside her band.”
Top Gig Listings
Duke of Edinburgh Award Forum, 2012​
ft HRH Prince Edward, the Countess of Wessex & the President of Malta
The 2012 Paralympics, London
Coca-Cola Beatbox stage
Runway Gibraltar, 2013 | Runway Malta, 2012​​​
MTV Malta Music Week, 2010
World Beatbox Battle Convention, 2010
Malta Music Awards & Bay Music Awards​
Various festivals in the UK, Sweden, Germany, Finland & Malta
Track Record:
Female finalist (ranked #5) @ 2012 World Beatbox Championships
Female Vice-Champion @ 2012 & 2013 UK Beatbox Champs
1st place @ 2008 University of Malta’s Singer-Songwriter Showcase

Quite a stunning C.V. from one of most beautiful and talented musicians in the world. With the likes of McKeon putting Beatbox firmly on the map, she is capable of recruiting a mass of new followers- for anyone that may balk at the idea, then listen closely. If you have encountered street performers and their art- not been impressed by it- do not assume that McKeon is just the same. She has the phenomenal talent and ability; her music goes deeper and aims wider- marrying Pop, Folk and Soul into her cannon- the sounds she offers are as fully-rounded and stunning as any you will hear. That central Beatbox core is what gives the music such an urgent and vibrant grip- every note and lyric is nailed into your brain. In various reviews I have been complaining about some mainstream artists- how impersonal and detached they are. With little regard for their fans, they provide no transparency- regressing into the shadows, they are not exactly warm and welcoming. For this reason, you do not get a full impression of an artist- their music is the only source of biography. Dana McKeon is someone who appreciates the importance of connection- ensuring her music is available far and wide, she is one of the most open artists I have seen. With an official website that is bold and informative, the first image you see is her smiling face- the synonym and definition of her artistry. Wanting to ensure her sounds gain exposure and representation, Street Art is a song that sets the tone- a dazzling and unmatched display of raw talent. It is a song that you are hard-pressed to compare with any others; such is its distinction, the track will never shift from your mind- you repeat it just to get a grip of things; understand and take in all it has to offer. The Street Art E.P. is going to be the chance for the world to witness McKeon in her full glory- it will contain the same sort of treats and sounds as its self-titled lead-single. With new music providing a lot of great sounds, McKeon is going to be one of the biggest names to watch- her future is going to be very bright. Commentators on YouTube have provided ample praise for Street Art; reviewers and listeners have been keen to highlight its wonder- if is a fresh and sizzling cut from one of the country’s most promising and inspirational artists.

Street Art– the single and E.P.- sees McKeon collaborating and drawing in various instruments and sounds- it is the first example of our heroine going out on her own. Her singular and distinct personality is what comes through sharply; the true testament of an incredibly hungry and talented artist- it is worth looking back and seeing where she came from. In her past, McKeon has collaborated with a number of different artists- lending her voice to other musicians’ tracks. A few months back, McKeon collaborated with DJ Pioneer and TJ. Renowned in the underground and House scene, McKeon lent her vocals to the track Circles. Backed by some entrancing and insistent beats, our heroine puts her soulful blends into the mix. The song catches you with its energy and sense of passion. The lyrics see her drawing someone close in- they are not close enough; she seductively entrances them forth. Alluring and tender, the vocal is terrifically standout and impressive- it backs wonderfully with the insatiable and gripping beat. After the swelling and punchy intro, that sense of drive and relentlessness continues- providing a mixture of danger-cum-serenity. McKeon’s smooth and gorgeous vocal makes every word stick and resonate. Being one of her last words- before Street Art– is gave the world a taste of what she is capable of. Previous to that, McKeon played at Beat Box/Sofar London (#618). A live performance recording, Hip-Hop sounds begin a rushing and instant turn. Intoxicating and mind-melting vocal projections grab you right from the start. Our heroine’s Beatbox rushes and mannerisms are a wonder to behold- her frantic and unpredictable delivery is like few you have ever heard. Her voice summons the sounds of Trance beats; Hip-Hop percussions and trumpets- an entire urban orchestra is elicited. Drawing in some samples of James Brown, it is a mixtape of captivating scintillation- staccato and syncopated; pulverising and intense, you can not ignore her glory. Cinematic and epic; operatic and tender, McKeon demonstrates just why she is just a huge name. The same sort of flair and talent that made her name in London; hypnotised the London crowd- the reaction she gains (at the end) is ecstatic. Between this recording- and her collaboration- you get a full sense of what McKeon is capable of- the Beatbox luster and energy; the soulful and Pop-inspired passion. These threads and strands are tied together in Street Art. Beatbox beats are what we hear at the top- our heroine lets her vocals offer some percussion. The track has a wonderful fresh and contemporary vibe- the vocal draws in some elements of Ellie Goulding and her peers; that warm and bird-like beauty shines. With a clear and concise delivery, the words speak of redemptiveness and uplift- our heroine is effusive and elliptical throughout. Looking at ambitions (and not limiting your mind), the song urges the listener to look inside themselves and unleash their potential- let their colours come out onto the canvas. Employing metaphors and literal scenes, the song is a gripping and layered example from a brilliant young talent- someone who has huge mainstream potential. Street Art is the sort of song that could be on rotation at Radio One and Two– in addition to some of the underground and specialised radio stations. Drawing in her Beatbox majesty and distinctions, it is a full-bodied assault on the senses- you are caught up in the light and charm that comes out. It is a confident cut from our heroine- something that develops from her earlier days. Before Street Art, McKeon had built her name and performed with a range of artists- there was little chance to see her fully-rounded personality come out on its own. With the single giving the public a glimpse of the Maltese star, it shows a great leap forward. Few acts are that vibrant and confident out of the blocks- most go in with cover versions and restrained performances. McKeon showcases instant authority and direction- she has cemented a sound that blends sights of the mainstream with underground Beatbox swathes- the fusion gives the music such a distinct and incomparable edge. The rest of Street Art (the E.P.) will see this developed and built- the tracks will augment this pride and passion. The future is likely to see McKeon’s multi talents emphasised and experimented with. Being such a vocal force, she has unlimited potential- she can bend her voice and make it sound natural in any setting. Just as home in Jazz and Soul and Pop and Electro., she has so much room for maneuver. This will lead to a very exciting and tantalising future- if she does put out an album, who knows what will come forth? Few artists have so much potential and promise: McKeon is an act that will be making music for years to come; making sure her sounds reach as many people as possible. The early signs are encouraging and prosperous- off of the back of a few recordings, so many people are lining up to pay tribute to her. With growing social media numbers, we clearly have a star in our midst- make sure you get in on the ground level.

When thinking about other artists- that inspire McKeon- I am faced with a difficult task. Most acts usually have some obvious influences; our heroine is so distinct, that there are few that I can point to. When her voice instills Pop beauty and soulful passion, I catch hints of Ellie Goulding. When reviewing Nina Schofield- last time out- I caught glimmers of Goulding in her music. McKeon has that same arresting beauty and urgency (Goulding possesses). When thinking about the best comparison, one should look at Halcyon– Goulding’s most recent example. On that album, she showed her epic, luxurious and insistent voice- it made all of the tracks compelling and nuanced. The album looks at a variety of topics and ruminations- from young love through to uplifting the soul; it is a deep and rounded album. Appealing to young listeners and older alike, it hit hard with the critics. McKeon has a similar talent and gift. Her voice has that richness and huge impressiveness; she presents myriad themes and scenes- aims to welcome as many people in as she can. Able to move and shift sounds and genres- within the space of a verse in some cases- she showcases a similar mobility and innovation. Big choruses and huge hooks add weight and measure to her voice- the well-crafted and perfected songs show such detail and colour. Goulding’s voice has emphatic sweetness and tenderness- she is as authoritative when introverting as she is bellowing and rallying against the world. The vocal- from Goulding- warbles and strings itself out; original and striking, it really stands out in your thoughts. McKeon incorporates a measure of Goulding’s sounds and style; tying it around her own unique and tailored pipes- seamlessly and deftly drawing in melodicism and vibrancy. With McKeon’s voice being high in the mix; the compositional elements consist of cut-up fragments and samples- you can a bit of Halcyon offer itself up. The same way Goulding experimented with sounds and genres; manipulated her voice to elicit the greatest effect- that is what impressed reviewers most. Gargantuan synth. stylings and long-form anthems were contained within Halcyon- McKeon compresses this potency into Street Art. Pulsating buoyancy, crisp beats and enigma makes Goulding such a huge prospect- to my mind, McKeon is even more mesmeric. Before I highlight a few other influences- and relevant names to Dana herself- a couple of Hip/Trip-Hop names come to my thoughts. Portishead and Massive Attack are two legends of the ’90s Trip-Hop/Dance scene. Portishead are mentioned because of their experimentation and stylisations. Their self-titled album is dark and dangerous; deep and trippy; it is a collection of songs that demand your attention. The dreamlike qualities the band infuse in the album emphasise all of the numbers- transcend them beyond the ordinary. Beth Gibbons’s emotive and Siren voice floats in the mix and haunts the listener- beautifully working with the captivating backing. McKeon instills plenty of drama, atmosphere and fascination into her music. Perhaps not as disturbed and dark as Portishead– or Dummy for that matter- but it does match the band’s sense of ambition and assuredeness. McKeon mixes sounds and samples- often created by her own voice- to whip up a heady and psychotropic atmosphere- with her gorgeous and rainbow voice, our heroine perfectly blends darker and more intense undertones with sweeter highs. When thinking about Massive Attack, their Mezzanine album strikes my thoughts. If you look at songs like Inertia Creeps, the range of effects, sounds and eerie atmospherics make it a standout cut- I can apply these considerations to McKeon. When hearing our heroine Beatbox and enthrall crowds, her voice elicits electronic instruments; takes in Hip and Trip-Hop elements; fuses dark and seedy undertones with electronic light- she is a Massive Attack album all in one! That earthy and ethereal blend- on Mezzanine- is pulled off due to some hugely talented performers. McKeon is as gifted as all the performers on that album; her ear and eye for texture and rhythm is expert and assured- few other artists have such an ability to melt so many different sounds and styles into a single song. Two female singers- that came to mind- are Nelly Furtado and Lana Del Rey. Furtado’s debut album Whoa, Nelly! was a staggering and incredible debut release. The music on the album is multicultural and relentlessly upbeat- heartfelt and hopeful, it is designed to put the listener is a better mood. Furtado’s restless vocalisations see her scat and rap; she rapidly repeats and bends notes- melismas come out when the moment calls for it. McKeon reminds me of the audacious songwriter (in Furtado). On Whoa, Nelly! you hear notes bent and contorted; she is bare-naked and honest- laying her emotions out it is a frank and soul-bleeding album. McKeon is a like-minded and nurtured act: she does not have the same over-eagerness and naivety (as Furtado)- possessing more confidence and concision. McKeon’s curriculum pull together exotic hybrids and cosmopolitan sounds- together with the vibes and beats of the street. That rare fusion is what sets the starlet aside (from her peers); Furtado’s huge worldwide grasp made her album such a varied and jam-packed thing- one that housed multiple genres. Juxtaposing surreal sounds, Furtado instantly marked herself out; some found it quirky and endearing, others took time to wrap their heads around things- McKeon is likely to strike a chord much more instantly. Another female singer- a bit more modern and relevant- is Lana Del Rey. If you look at Del Rey’s Born to Die album (released in 2012); the magnificent melodies and superbly-crafted Pop songs were made for radio- few tracks pushed the listener away. Whilst Del Rey is more laconic and somnambulistic, McKeon elicits her own ethereal beauty with power and grace. Del Rey- criticised for being a “pneumatic marionette“- was able to haunt and seduce; her songs dug deep into the soul and caused huge results. McKeon is a most more assured and confident artist; she is ready to play and means serious business- the slightest hint of Del Rey is incorporated. When McKeon’s sweetness and spectral sides come out, you can detect embers of Del Rey- the similar sense of passion and serenity comes out. A trio of artists- that have meant a lot to our heroine- are James Brown, Bobby McFerrin and Tracy Chapman. Encapsulating a wealth of soulfulness and powerful prowess, the distinct singers have inspired a lot of McKeon’s current movements. If you listen to James Brown albums like In the Jungle Groove; that disc it is profoundly funky and upbeat- one of the finest albums from the Godfather of Soul. An exceptional and unparalleled band leader, Brown showed his chops as a sonic innovator and rhythmic guider. The way he bends notes, introduces tics and effects; powers through lines and verses is exhilarating and exhausting. Inspiring millions of Hip-Hop followers, the album transcended boundaries and barriers- spoke to a whole new generation. I can hear Brown in McKeon- when hearing her live testaments, that same irresistible and unquenchable power and control is evident. The dance workout and unstoppable grooves stand up to the test of time- Brown is an artist that has inspires legions of new artists. McKeon has that flair, drive and panache- when she is solo, she commands presence and grips the audience; a natural-born leader, you know how much music means to her. Bobby McFerrin’s legendary reputation for vocal acrobatics can be applied to McKeon. McFerrin could switch from bass notes to falsetto- virtuoso displays that made his music so distinct. Listen to albums like The Voice and you see this come out with force- one of the finest vocal albums of all-time. McKeon has a huge talent for octave-jumping and transformations- her Beatbox work is a paragon of experimentation and expectation-defiance. Tracy Chapman is an artist that must have inspired- our heroine’s- young mind. The emotional resonance that comes out- on Chapman’s self-titled album- mixed with modern and relevant scenes (compiled around classic production values). Chapman displayed activism and gutsy performances; keenly observed writing make the songs timeless and genre-defying. The beautiful Folk and Pop meltings can be heard on McKeon’s latest cut. Our heroine’s ability to pen modern-day gems and slice-of-life codas find their lineage in the work of Chapman- completed by astonishing vocal conviction and you have an artist that could be a modern-day comparable. All of these examples give you some background and reference- McKeon is so distinct that you will struggle to hear anyone else come out in her voice. The way she commingles vocalised beats and Pop lyricism aside one another is an endeavour few attempt- she should provide guidance for up-and-coming stars.

All of this brings us to the key coal point: Street Art. The song has been gathering a great deal of praise and fervency; its video has impressed YouTube viewers with its original storyline and incredible scenes- its reverse-graffiti tableau is not often covered. A yearning and aching electronic yawn brings the track into life. Accompanied by McKeon’s powerful and Beatbox percussion, the vocal divinity starts to come into effect- it is a stunning open to the song; it does not go in with too much force; plenty of intrigue and curiosity is elicited. Soul-inspired serenity makes the sonic elements seep into your consciousness; you are relaxed and calmed by the swaying smoothness (of the electronics); arrested and stood up by the firecracker beats. Our heroine steps to the microphone, with an enlivened and gorgeous vocal. With a smattering of Ellie Goulding’s choral beauty, it is a sharp and stunning sound- imbued with passion, force and urgency. McKeon speaks to her friends; a subject is being addressed as she implores “Tip-toe, stay low“- the cops are near-by; if (her subject) gets caught then they are going to go to jail. Given the song’s title and street scenes, one instantly feels that graffiti has been crated- mistaking it for vandalism, you can hear the echo of the sirens forthcoming. If the song’s focal point is locked away, they will never get to see the day when they can realise their ambitions- everything will be squandered and wasted. The vocal projection means the words trip and flow; the gorgeous and effective delineation gives the early moments a terrific flow and consistent energy. Propelled and supported by insistent and punchy beats, the track grows in meaning and stature- with every new word, you are given a new piece of the puzzle. The hero will lose; ruin things because they “can’t let go.” Early impressions revolve around that song title. Our hero is painting the city with tags and unique designs; choosing to project their art on concrete walls- it is going to see them taken off of the streets and behind bars. Capable of so much more- by embracing the street and respecting it- they have the chance for freedom and development- scenes and thoughts of love are tempted in. Whether literally referring to graffiti (or the colourful and lasting impressions of heartache), McKeon cleverly keeps the full truth bridled and enclosed. One part of you looks at graffiti murals and boys running from the police; the other sees someone heartbroken and bereft. Defining the limits of his mind, the hero is encouraged to let their personality shine- go out onto the streets and project the colours of his soul. Advising not to “sleep at night” more tantilisation and intrigue is proffered forth- some ambiguity teases the creative mind. Whether encouraging the song’s hero to go out and literally paint- or as a metaphor for embracing the people and sounds of the city- you are left to imagine. That drive towards dream-fulfillment and ambitions comes through blindingly: our heroine’s voice is filled with so much passion and drive you cannot ignore the potency of the words. With a great melodic sound, an upbeat and rousing chorus, it is not long until the song starts to become infectious and irresistible. At night, there is no time for sleep- there is so much quiet and solitude; the chance is there to work. Such a black-and-white city- you wonder if London is being referred to- there is incentive to make it sparkle. Picking up the palette of colours, the hero- or heroine: my apologies- is pushed to go forth and be overcome. The green lights provide inspiration and spikes the mind- the way the lines are delivered make them sound elementary and completely essential. Some thoughts are syncopated in a flow; others stuttered and carefully deployed- that range of considerations makes the track fresh and unpredictable. The city is a canvas that is waiting for something fresh and daring- someone to come along and liven it up. Every boring shade and concrete pertinence has the potential to be transmogrified and reborn- the sheer delight and passion McKeon gives to her lyrics makes you wonder if she is referring to herself. That hunger and soulful passion mingles Goulding-esque delivery with something much more unique- when the pulsating rhythmic beats are uttered; it can be nobody else but Dana McKeon. Colours focus highly on the song’s lyric rostra: the heroine uses them as metaphors and jumping-off points- the hero is ‘blue’ inside and has a chance to change that. The unique and spellbinding mixture of shades makes the song sound so different and refreshing- you are as captured by the different colours as you are the scenes unfolding. The hero has so much ambition and inner longing, that repression is threatening to explode. Dreams and talent should not be denied; a person’s true self should not be denied- McKeon is providing social commentary and relevance; the likes of which Tracy Chapman would be proud. When the chorus swings back around, the meanings and truths start to come through with clarity. Wrapped up in the addictive and insatiable appetite of the vocal, you start to sense that things will change- the song’s focus will rebel and paint the city with colours. It is terrific how the mind stays split and open: to a degree I was thinking that love is being assessed; someone has been heartbroken and being advised to go out there and not give up. Taken literally, the song could refer equally to art as music itself- with the big cities lacking necessary bite and vitality; the opportunity is there for the most talented and original to make their mark. Refreshingly ambitious and fresh, the song is mesmeric enough to draw in multitudes of fans- it is not just reserved for the younger Pop-orientated minds. Juxtaposing my earliest impressions, our heroine decries the lack of tolerance and acceptance- the graffiti is “fleeting.” Being eradicated and discouraged, it was providing true meaning and purpose; the subjugation and repression is leading to anxiety and heartache. With the likes of London distinctly grey and samey- beautiful but not bright- there is ample room for some multifarious inputs; eye-catching deigns would lend an original and much-needed flavour to the skylines. The original sinner is the vigilante of London- the one who roams at night seeking fresh canvases. Musical and personal ambitions are encouraged: on a level you sense that the song may have a lot of personal relevance; McKeon is representing herself to a small degree. With so much narrowly-defined and constricted musicians out there, her potent and startling voice is the spark of light needed- the antidote to the miasma of the mainstream. Enraptured in the charm and swirl of the composition- it packs in a myriad of notes and injections- the vocal rides highest. Sweet and passionate; inflamed and climbing, it is a magnificent performance. While the final moments approach, you get another taste of that Beatbox rawness- a perfect conclusion to a tale that has its heart on the city streets. You wonder whether a satisfactory resolution was arrived at; if the hero managed to overcome forces and add colour to the night. Such is the curiosity and fascination presented, you are left speculating and theorising- I would like to think that thinks worked out for the best. It is that deliriously beautiful and elliptical vocal that makes the song such a treat for the ears- the way the lines are delivered takes your breath away. With enough urgency and quality to sit alongside this year’s most addictive songs, Street Art is a track that has no limits- you will be listening to it when you need inspiration and necessary boost. Spirited, defiant and uplifting, it is what the music world needs right now.

With music lacking necessary economy and prosperity, it is terrific to see what new music is promoting- the likes of Dana McKeon are going to be names of the future. Having been intoxicated and mesmerised by her Beatbox work- that utterly disengaging and overwhelming sound- I could not wait to investigate Street Art. If the rest of the E.P. has the same flair and memorability- as the title cut- then it will represent one of the most potent opening moves of any new artist. Being Maltese and a proponent of Beatbox-Pop, McKeon already stands out- how many others do you know that promise this same diversity and combination? With heart-melting looks and a voice that could stop traffic, it seems our heroine should be formulating plans- I hope a lot more music is in her mind. Street Art is a song that makes you smile- simple as that. With impassioned and insatiable vocals; a huge and all-encompassing melody- you get a track that hits you instantly. Revealing treats and hidden treasures upon future listens, the track is a studded and glistening number- something that has put me in a much better mood. Before I get down to specifics- highlighting particular standout elements- I will wrap up the song evaluation. The lyrics have a unique and ever-relevant voice- looking towards desires and dream fulfillment; they are strange in their redemptiveness. Few artists project something inspiring and positive- it makes McKeon a fresh and unexpected treat. Tight and focused, Street Art covers a huge amount of ground; unveils a lot of story and development- keeps you gripped from beginning to end. Backed and bolstered by a huge and life-affirming chorus, it is going to be a track that will set many dancefloors alive. Like Nina Schofield, Dana McKeon has an authority when it comes to Pop and melody- able to summon up a magisterial amount of energy and joy, it is great to see these innovators come through. Few tracks possess so much heart, soul, grit and passion- the key components for every great song. It will be interesting to see what else Street Art offers up- whether the remaining tracks are packed with the same sparks and fascinations. Kudos must go to McKeon herself: a clear star with a big future, her endless authority and conviction defines the song. Elevating it to rarefied heights, that insatiable and gorgeous voice gives the song smile, charm and kick- when her vocals portray beats and Beatbox, she is equally potent. A skilled and intelligent songwriter, there is nothing juvenile and inexperienced being offered- Street Art is a song that is instilled with maturity and a terrific amount of skill. Able to unify genres like Pop, Trip-Hop and Urban; our heroine is a daring and mesmeric talent. These are the very early days; the moments where personality and ambition are starting to build- the ensuing years will see just how much potential and longevity McKeon has. Judging her first solo effort, things seem to be very rosy indeed- it is clear the Maltese star has an unending passion for what she does. I wonder whether the audiences and crowds compel and inspire her- if the creative output is the reciprocity from the enraptured reception (she receives). Let us hope that our heroine does not relent touring; brings her music to the masses- I for one need to catch her in her natural environment. Having obtained just a few sides to McKeon, her E.P. will expand her promise and sound- the public will get the chance to witness something quite compelling and spectacular. I hope that the likes of McKeon inspire new songwriters to do things in a similar way: break away from predictable avenues and do something different with music. When you open your imagination and infuse originality, the results are quite stunning.

Hopefully I have provided a good overview of Dana McKeon- as well as Street Art. Her name and profile is starting to gain some serious momentum- the amount of supporters she is gaining shows you just how hard her music is resonating. Already a big name in her native Malta, McKeon has played all around Europe- performing to various-sized crowds, she has been very busy indeed. Over the coming months, our heroine will be playing throughout the U.K.- including a host of gigs around London. The capital is providing some of the world’s most distinct and exciting urban and street acts- artists that take Rap, Hip-Hop and R ‘n’ B- providing a new spin and sense of adventure. With so few Beatbox artists around- fewer that mix in Pop, Folk and Soul into it- we need to embrace and promote acts like McKeon. Her talent and authority is hard to deny; there are few artists that sound so confident and assured. Mixing in lyrics that make you think and assess situations; topics that delve deep and take their soul into myriad avenues- Street Art is a thought-provoking and gripping song. The perfect introduction to a wonderful E.P., we are being given a chance to witness one of the nation’s best young talents showcase her work- the next few years are going to be exciting and prosperous. I am not sure where McKeon will head from here. Having a huge draw in Malta and around Europe, it is clear she will be touring and gigging internationally- who knows what markets will come calling. Having a contemporary flair and multitudinous sound, I would not be shocked to see her transcend to the U.S.- there are plenty of venues and stations that would eat her music up. For that matter, large parts of Australia and South America would welcome her in- the potential she has is immense. Perhaps wanting to keep her feet planted (for now), McKeon is watching the effect Street Art has on people- its striking and unforgettable video scores a song that is as insistent and memorable as any I have heard in a long while. One of the best things about my reviewing role is being exposed to genres and forms of music I would not usually seek out- highlighting sounds that are not widely played and pervaded. That mix of multiple instruments; stunning vocal projection and spellbinding technique makes all of McKeon’s output sound elementary and absolutely vital. Being so close to London, I have no excuse for missing out on the live experience- seeing our heroine in the flesh and seducing crowds. Make sure you investigate Street Art in its full glory; snap up the E.P. too- keep Dana McKeon at the top of your thoughts. Before I go, I want to focus again on Beatbox and the genre- a style of music that we need to hear more of. It may not be to everybody’s taste, but that is not to say we should ignore its impact- too many people turn their noses up without giving it a chance. Assuming it is going to be uninspired and jarring, they tend to bridle and pull away. In order to broaden your mind and welcome in something new, you have to be brave and bold- take a chance on music and give it a fair shout. After investigating Street Art, I have been inspired to check out similar acts and sounds- delve deep into the history of the form. McKeon infuses elements of Pop and Soul; beauty and passion sit alongside insistent and vibrant beats- all backed by her inspiring and incredible voice. With a multifaceted ability (few others possess), she is going to have a huge future. Collaborating with other artists means that an album may be in her thoughts- she has enough drive and potential to turn in an incredibly striking and varied L.P. Again, I shall not get ahead of myself- instead just let you focus on the here and now. For those that bury your heads in confined and samey sounds; are nervous about embracing something unexpected and unfamiliar- do not let your mind shrink and contract. One listen of Street Art and you are hooked in; our heroine wants to embrace and welcome as many listeners as possible. An artist that is so warm and open should not be left to chance and serendipity; she is making some huge impressions right now- make sure you do not let Dana McKeon get away…

EMBRACE her instead.

 

   About the Author:

       https://musicmusingsandsuch.wordpress.com/about/

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Follow Dana McKeon:

Official:

http://www.danamckeon.com/

Facebook:

https://www.facebook.com/DanaMcKeonMusic

Twitter:

YouTube:

https://www.youtube.com/user/DanaMcKeon

SoundCloud:

ReverbNation:

http://www.reverbnation.com/show/13702052

MySpace:

https://myspace.com/danamckeon

Last F.M.:

http://www.last.fm/music/Dana+McKeon

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Dana McKeon’s videos are available via:

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Dana McKeon’s music can be heard here:

http://www.danamckeon.com/#!music/c10tw

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Tour dates available at:

http://www.danamckeon.com/#!gigs/c9a0

Track Review: Nina Schofield- Over It Under It

TRACK REVIEW:

Nina Schofield

Over It Under It

9.5/10.0

Over It Under It is available from:

https://soundcloud.com/ninaschofield/over-it-under-it-nina-schofield-1

The E.P. Colours is available to order via:

https://itunes.apple.com/gb/album/colours-ep/id847601556?utm_content=buffer2c670&utm_medium=social&utm_source=twitter.com&utm_campaign=buffer

RELEASED:
07 April 2014

TRACKLISTING:
Over It Under It
Colours
Everytime We Touch
Breakaway

GENRES:
Pop, Electro.-Pop, Soul
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Her E.P. Colours is one of the finest records produced in 2014: a vibrant and passionate representation of a young woman with huge potential. Nina Schofield unveils one of the E.P.’s finest cuts- Over It Under It unites the catchiness and melody of Pop; the deep emotions of Soul; the shimmering beauty of the likes of Tori Amos and Ellie Goulding. Here is a talent that should not be overlooked

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HAVING spent the past few days reviewing musicians from Canada…

it is good to be back on home soil- featuring an artist I am very familiar with. Nina Schofield is someone I have reviewed previously- when her Colours E.P. dropped I was keen to get to work. It is great to see so many great female solo artists come through: each offer something unique and different; their own projection and personality- Nina Schofield is among the most talented and striking around. Her music is emotional: with resilience and strength, she mixes defiance with tenderness- bringing the listener into her deeply personal heart. I will touch more on Schofield’s music- and her thought process- but will raise one issue: the solo market. Having consecrated my attentions towards bands- over the past week- I am reflecting on something more insular and unique- the music proffered by solo acts. The likes of La Roux have stamped out some of 2014’s most distinct and stunning albums- the solo market is offering phenomenal works. As well as the boys are doing, it is the female side of the market that is impressing me most. In the mainstream, there are some terrifically confident and distinct artists emanating forth; each one seems to be in a league of their own- the realms of new music are providing even greater anticipation. Having assessed quite a few different (female solo acts), I am stunned by the audacious conviction and passion that comes through- with each new artist I take away something different; find myself inspired and surprised. The U.K. is hosting quite a few of the best and brightest in the world- from Soul-based divas to hypnotising Electro.-Pop mistresses; this country is showcasing just what is coming through. The next year will (hopefully) see some of our finest talent transcend to the mainstream; get their just rewards and hear their music put on a pedestal- the sheer effort and hard work they put in (to their craft) should see them succeed. Of all the artists I see coming through, Schofield is one of the most worthy and impressive. Few modern artists work harder than she does- having toured extensively this year, she is still going out and bringing her music to fresh and new crowds. Being familiar with her E.P. Colours– and having reviewed it- I can pay testament to just how amazing and full the music is. Drawing in influences of some of her idols- wrapped inside her distinct and original voice- you get terrific tracks that speak to every listener- few are going to be immune to the potency and weight of their majesty. Instilling lashings of flair, urgency and heartfelt sentiment (into her songs), Schofield mixes myriad themes and emotions- digging deeper than most of the contemporaries. Before I go into more depth, let me introduce my featured artist to you:

 Keys and Vocals- Nina Schofield
Guitar – Rob Harral/Chris Swan
Bass – Ollie Chipchase
Drums – James Birt/Pete Brazier/Callum Swift

To mix thoughtful and catchy songs with a uniquely arresting voice and breathtaking beauty is a classic recipe for pop success. But singer/songwriter Nina has also shown a mature determination to achieve an international career. Classically trained and having successfully completed a Degree in Vocal Performance at the Academy of Contemporary Music she has done a great deal of professional work to widespread acclaim. Known as a singer from her early years she has performed in public since the age of 16. Nina was delighted to be invited to perform at the Montreux Jazz Festival, sharing the bill with the likes of Black Eyed Peas, Seal, Lily Allen, Jeff Beck, Gnarls Barkley and Ben’s Brother. Since then, she has continued to perform live as well as working closely with internationally noted Producer Richard Niles (Sir Paul McCartney, Ray Charles, Mariah Carey, Kylie Minogue, Westlife, Tom Jones) with whom she has already produced two singles. She has worked in collaboration with musicians such as Richard Cottle (David Bowie, Seal, Tina Turner), the famous photographer Angelo Valentino (Kate Moss, Naomi Campbell, Usher) and one of America’s hottest designers, Arianna Power (Kayne West, Estelle, Metro Station). Nina has performed her songs at venues across the UK such as The Buxton Dome, The Stoke Mandeville Stadium for the Paralympics Torch Lighting Event and many festivals. She was given the honour of singing at a British war hero’s funeral at Winchester Cathedral and has since taken a passionate interest in supporting British troops including composing a beautifully moving song, “Slow Down Soldier” performed in support of Help for Heroes. The song reached number 4 in the iTunes Singer/Songwriter charts, overtaking both Damien Rice and Eva Cassidy. As well as supporting John Power (The La’s/Cast) on two occasions, she has taken part in the semi-finals of the BBC Radio 2 Young Folk Awards. Radio airplay includes coverage by local stations such as Win FM, and, in addition to recorded plays, live studio performances for BBC Southern Counties Radio on South Live (syndicated across the southern counties), BBC Solent Radio, Hampshire and Guildford University Radio, Surrey. In addition to interviews on local TV, Nina recorded with the ACM Gospel Choir as aired on the BBC2 TV show “Genius” in March 2009 and was a featured artist on the Channel 5 advert for “Don’t Stop Believing” with Emma Bunton in a national campaign.”

A lot had happened in the last few years (for Nina). In addition to releasing an E.P., Schofield has been touring far and wide- she has been taking her Colours across the nation. Playing to crowds as diverse as school children and pub goers, all have been seduced and enthralled by her incredible live performances. Schofield aims to make her music as big and atmospheric as possible- she takes dark subjects and adds lightness and heart to them. In spite of having suffered heartache and upheaval, Schofield makes sure her music connects with people- her beautifully impassioned style and intelligently deep lyrics resonate with fans and listeners. Inspired by current acts like Ellie Goulding, Temper Trap and Lea Michelle; Schofield has her ear to the ground of current music- mixing in various sounds into her palette- separating herself aside from the majority of singer-songwriters. Schofield has never had a plan B: music is what she has always wanted to do; this conviction and drive has led to some incredible releases. Since 2010, our heroine has been producing music and collaborating with other artists- it is her dedication and consistency that makes her such a special treat. Spending her days glued to piano; melodies falling down on her, Schofield immerses herself in music- you can tell that few other things in life matter as much. Growing up in a musical household, Schofield was inoculated and entranced by various artists- enforcing her young mind and inspiring her path. She is going to be touring for the rest of the summer; absorbing all that new music has to offer- and the mainstream too- and soaking all those elements in- the sounds that our heroine produces draws in a wide range of different threads and considerations. With Colours gaining so much support and momentum, Over It Under It is being snapped up and paid tribute- it is also one of Schofield’s favourite tracks. It is clear that a lot more music is going to come from her; with an unending and indefatigable passion for what she does, sounds are always being put out- every day new ideas and touches are being added. With so few of her peers possessing such a drive and determination, the next year will surely see Schofield go from strength to strength- new and illustrious tour dates; fresh releases; promising new endeavours. Knowing Nina personally, it is great to see her so full of life and fortitude- nothing will stand in the way of her goals and dreams.

Schofield’s current endeavours arrive off of the back of a prosperous and busy history- the young artist has covered a lot of ground and been very prolific. In additioin to collaborating (with other acts), our heroine has produced a lot of original material. The songs Slow Down Solider (released in 2010) and He Said She Said (released in 2011) both featured on the 2011 album Drifting– other tracks from that album were also released. Having investigated the album I was impressed by how strong and meaningful (Schofield is) right from the off. That distinct and solidified personality is already developed- there were no nerves or anxiety (on her debut L.P.). It’s Impossible sees revenge and retribution in mind- the track skips and trips with meaning and menace- the vocal is strong and soulful. Showcasing influences of Kate Bush- in the composition- there is a pleasing familiarity and classic Pop edge. With a resolute and focused flair, the song is the perfect opening track. The title track is grander and more sweeping- taking more time, our heroine stands strong and is in emphatic mood. Backed by strings and classic oeuvres, the song is lush and full-bodied- the mixture of romance and strength make it an instant draw. This Time shows Schofield presenting a ripe and fresh gem: a track you could see Ellie Goulding or Foxes cover, it is a big and mesmerising stamp of authority- compounded by that distinctly operatic vocal turn. Poppy and electric; spright and gritty, our heroine mingles multiple genres- underpinnings of R ‘n’ B and Electronica sit with Pop and Indie layers. Movie scenes and crowded rooms comer to view; Schofield’s gift for storytelling and projection puts the listener in the heart of the song- you are captured by its charms and honesty. Mr. Nice Guy is lighter and more restrained- in the initial stages. Fettled and controlled, Schofield lets her softer side come through- the big and imperious chorus takes the track up a level. I Should Be Happy sees our heroine reflecting and thankful: if she falls and crashes to the ground, her friends will rally round- it is the most redemptive and inspiring track of the album. Instilling quirkiness and distinctly eccentric delivery, Schofield beautifully sprinkles elements of Never for Ever-era Kate Bush with shades of The Killers. Staggered by the breadth and ambition on Drifting, Schofield proved what a strong songwriter she is- at such a young age, it is staggering to see how much quality is on display. Showing no weak moments, it is a potent and compelling collection. Since then, I think she has improved- her confidence has risen and her songs are deeper and more layered. Backing away from avenues of Bush and the like, Schofield’s voice sounds more developed and matured- she has child-like sweetness, but imbues more soul and nuance into her delivery. Colours sports an emphatic and uplifting title track. It is here where the transformation begins- with urgent and emphatic vocals, it is a standout track. Smoother and more serene (than previous offerings) our heroine indulges her silky and slinky corners; presents melodic and soulful sweetness- take that powerful chorus into consideration and you will not get the song out of your head. More extroverted and assured, Schofield is less introspective and heartbroken- the club-ready delirium (of the multiple layers) makes it a hugely impressive adventure. The likes of La Roux are portraying similar-sounding numbers- considering her album Trouble In Paradise is such a gem, that tells you all you need to know. Possessing equal authority and talent, Everytime We Touch keeps momentum strong. Sweeping and romantic, the ballad has sexy and seductive edges. Electro. beats make sure it has harder and primal lingerings; a stunningly addictive cut- it is a song as suitable for the summer beaches as it is late-night club scenes. Breakaway is introverted and emotional. Tender and delicate, you are caught up in the sheer beauty of the song. Our heroine looks at the world- if you need to find space and focus, then get away from things; ensure you make time for yourself. Coming from the diary pages of our heroine, it is like she is letting you into the world- giving the listener something intimate and personal (as well as) universal and endlessly relevant. The entire E.P. is assured and fascinating- it builds off of Schofield’s incredible start and adds more power and beauty. Having augmented and galvanised her voice; increased her lyrical and compositional range- our heroine is at her most inspired and positive. Over It Under It is a rushing and catchy tune- an insatiable jam that looks at ego trips and proclivious figures. Showcasing a desire for tightness and focus, the track covers a lot of ground (in little time)- the song’s direct and unabated drive makes sure the listener is fully on board. All of this points to a very bright next few years. Schofield gets more confident and impressive with each release- it will be phenomenal to see what she comes up with next.

Schofield is an artist that has a very particular and specialised personality. Showing an originality and distinction, she is among a small number of truly different musicians- those not indebted to anyone else. If you are looking for inspirations and some undertones (of other acts) I can recommend a few names. The first I will provide is Kate Bush. The queen of all music (in my view), I extrapolate and detect some of Bush’s quirk and cuteness in Schofield- the two share the ability to bend and seduce words; provide lustful atmosphere and magic with scant effort. In terms of an album reference point (from Bush) the finest example is Never for Ever. That album remains a classic because of the range of songs- the spectrum covered is hugely impressive. The strange and beguiling power of Babooshka sits with the haunting and breathtaking Army Dreamers– where Bush mutates her voice from growling and tripping (on the former) to child-like and crystalline (the latter). Bush sounds more confident and solid here- after The Kick Inside gained mixed feedback. The dramatics and theatrical deliveries define the songs’ perfections- rather than coming across as absurd and Muse-like- giving the album such a weight. The curvatures she puts into her voice make overt seriousness gripping and convincing; flights-of-fancy measured and controlled- when he voice pirouettes and dances, it never spirals recklessly. Schofield is a similarly impressive talent. Her voice springs and tip-toes; she can go from low and guttural smoothness to pin-sharp and howling execrations- every shade and colour she proffers seems elementary and divine. Bush tailored her vocal acrobatics around simple and storybook themes- Babooshka‘s motherly instinct were made golden with that peculiarly addictive vocal performance. Schofield’s artistry and personality has some background in Bush’s 1980 diamond- Colours draws some inspiration from Hounds of Love (Bush’s defining moment). When Schofield lets her Pop side out it may be closer to Never for Ever– when dramatised and emotive, Hounds of Love seems to come through. The album showcased fear, anxiety and curiosity- revolving around tales of love, Bush managed to unite these diverse and disparate themes. Making people dance to the sound of a rusty pipe, the songs’ bitter and haunted cores possessed manifest deliriousness and etherealness- Running Up That Hill (A Deal with God) is one of her most staggeringly exotic numbers. Tribal potency spars with lush orchestral moments; twisted boundaries mean the music is free and open- no shock that it remains her most inspired work. Natural world songs nestled with confessional love stories- the craft and memorable melodies stand up to repeat assaults. Schofield is similarly realised and ambitious- she has authority when ensconced in dreamy whirlpools; potent when striking outwards- her talent for tantilising compositions and gorgeous arrangements put me in mind of 1985 Kate Bush. The ormented and divergent grasps do not feel fragmented- every song and sound fuses wonderfully well. Colours does likewise: the E.P. has a similar headiness and entrancing ability. Tori Amos is another female icon- I can hear in Schofield’s work. Perhaps more synonymous with her debut album period (Schofield), Amos’s influence comes to the fore. Little Earthquakes (Amos’s debut) is the most pertinent and apropos comparable. That album saw the young princess offer some uncomfortable moments and sarcastic output. While Schofield does not project these components, the intimacy and frankness is the most obvious familiarity. On Little Earthquakes, Amos seemed vulnerable and open- letting the listener into her tales of independence and defiance. That mixture of pained and empowered sits within Schofield’s work. As passionate and potent as Amos, our heroine presents mini-operas and touching sagas- drapped around a stunning and gripping vocal. When Amos revealed Midwinter Graces, critics saw her break into colder and more reflective realms. I mention the album due to its serenity and diaphanous qualities- Schofield is as hypnotising when letting her voice campaign and seduce. The evocative and stately compositions- on Midwinter Graces– is scored by tranquil and seductive vocals. Schofield- when she goes into ballad terriroty- ensures that there is loftiness and gracefulness to proceedings. Before I mention some British influences, I will draw in one more American name: Michael Jackson. The way Jacko presented his distinct and unique vocal styles- the tics and mannerisms- made him such an inspirational figure. He could make gritty and urgent songs as unexpected as any song you have ever heard- his huge talent went into ever note. Schofield has a similar ear for vocals and style- she does not lazily implore or become predictable; the way she contorts and shifts notes; changes directions and elicits some personal mannerisms make her songs pop and fizz. On Jackson’s Bad/Dangerous tenure he transformed from softer and more emotional boyfriend to an incriminated and discriminated-against rebellion. The former album saw anxiety for sure; it was more Pop-orientated and romantic- the hooks and panache made Bad so addictive. Rich, sexy and edgy, the album was a huge triumph- I can see embers within Drifting. Those same tales of love-against-the-odds, the strike-against-the-world determination and insatiable catchiness make its songs so nuanced and repeatable. When Colours came out, it seemed like Jackson’s transition to Dangerous. That album has harder edges and more intent- it has that raw and strengthened focus; a wider range of sounds and emotions. Channelling pain and demons through the scintillating songs, the album is more rounded and intriguing. Schofield introduces more directness and confrontation on Colours– she keeps the cores of Drifting in tact and stretches them outwards. The crackling and body-popping jams of Dangerous effortlessly parabond with emotive and ethereal emotional tracks- it is a stunning acheivement. Schofield is as adept at fusing these sides; she presents more positivity and effervescence- whilst ensuring her songs have striking and addictive beats and dance. Two names- that inspire Schofield- are Ellie Goulding and Coldplay. The former artist is someone Schofield aims to see perform live- catch her new album out in the open. You can hear some familiar tones between the two. If you look at Goulding’s 2010 debut- Lights– that album saw gushing and breathless rushes sweep the listener away. Tracks like Starry Eyed were undeniable smashes- that song is as addictive and indelible as any I have heard. The lush production and star-in-the-making confidence shines (in the album)- sparkling Pop and Folk-tinged heart blend without any fractions. Goulding made sure her personality and inner joy came out- there is no fakery or pretensions at all. Schofield makes her music equally inspiring and joyous- she introduces lush and swaggering compositions; danceable riots and earnest and heartfelt inner-visions. Schofield has the ability to craft modern-day dancefloor codas- the type of songs that get you onto your feet; can whip festival crowds into a sweaty whirlpool of dance. The skillful songwriting- of Lights– offers detours and sharp turns; superseding expectations and surprising listeners- it delves deeper than 90% of the Pop market. Synthesisers and drum beats provide primal urge; pianos and strings have cinematic draw- the album combines so much. Schofield manages to match Goulding for that mix of sounds and talent- an even stronger songwriter; our heroine keeps her songs unpredictable and endlessly fascinating. Goulding’s album Halcyon (released in 2012), saw dynamism and opaque lyrics grip the heart- the staggering range of sounds make the album such a treasure. Huge wrecking ball Disco beats sit with robotic stutter; bird-like beauty and punchy Dance. The musical genealogy is amplified and upgraded; Goulding makes bids for stardom and glory- the leap she achieved showed a developed and consecrated sound. Schofield has made a comparable jump- her latest moves tie all of the Goulding hallmarks together with an ambitious and meaningful result- Colours is the sound of an artist who belongs in the big leagues; rubbing shoulders with her heroines and heroes. A Rush of Blood to the Head is one of Schofield’s most treasured favourites- an album that has inspired her. Whilst Coldplay do not reach those heady heights now, the 12-year-old album is rightly regarded as a classic. Gone was the timidity of Parachutes: the band came across as confident and meaningful- songs such as In My Place and The Scientist are bona fide standouts. It is a planet-straddling and dictatorial album- one that wants to conquer all others. Sparse, strange and catchy could be words levied towards the album- they can be applied to Schofield’s work too. Equally adept at making piano-led ballads entrancing and overwhelming, our heroine is just as comfortable when experimenting with sounds and themes- some of her songs match the best moments from A Rush’ . The conversational and entrancing elements of the album ensure they resonate with the listener- the songs do not draw you away or divide attentions; they capture everyone and reveal layers over the course of listens. Surges, lustful passions- backed by a developed and pin-sharp falsetto- make them snapshots of life- events and capsules that every listener can relate to. Solid lyrical arrangements are bolstered by ambitious and ballsy musicianship grabs- few bands have such an ability to throw so much together with startling results. Schofield has taken the cores of the album to heart- her work possesses the same teardrops and heartfelt quiet; rampant and driving ballads; swirling and colourful codas- Colours contains the sort of tracks modern-day Chris Martin would steal. Before I go, I want to quickly introduce a quartet of names: Chloe Howl, Imogen Heap, Foxes and P.J. Harvey. Chloe Howl’s Synth.-Pop songs have a rawness and combined sense of fun- she has sultriness and allure plus teenage rebellion and power. The way she channels frustration into chart assaults- songs like Rumour– make her a name to watch- quips and attitude are backed by huge Pop choruses. Schofield has enough spike and wit at her disposal; she turns subjects of resentment and accusation into stunning made-for-radio pumps- displaying the same innovative and direct hits (Chloe Howl perfects). Imogen Heap’s modern movements (on Sparks) show crystallised and distilled emotions- she manages to compact so much emotion and sound into single songs. Heap introduces a range of characters and players; her odd phrasing and unique lyrics give the music a flavoursome and charming wink- her albums are packed with a wealth of fascination. Schofield makes sure her tracks are not stale and stolid: the way she manifests inner pain and joy is done with full regard towards individuality- you get a clear sense of a woman with her own distinct voice. Foxes’ album Glorious was lauded because of its late-night passions and lustrous crackle- dark impulses and shadowy melodies make her work so outstanding and urgent. That tonic of carefree and haunting is what marks Schofield as such a relevant and daring artist- every mixed emotion she presents is authoritative and deep. P.J. Harvey is the final name I will present. Harvey’s gut-wrenching and dramatic compositions come out in To Bring You My Love– an L.P. that has accessibility written all over it. Avant-garde sweeping emotions are focused by tight and controlled songwriting. Schofield manages to make her songs as evocative and stunning- she draws all of these artists into the background; keeping her foreground very much her own. It is because of these considerations and cohabitations so many people are excited.

Before I get down to reviewing Over It Under It– eagle-eyed may notice I have assessed the track previously. Determined to re-investigate one of this year’s most urgent songs, one other strange thing may catch your eye- it has gained an extra point. Having listened to the track on and off- since Colours was released- I understand I was too cautious and closed-off- it is a song that reveals its true potency after repeated spins. It is immediacy and intimacy that start the song. With a piano flourish that is lush and rich, you are put in mind of Coldplay’s A Rush of Blood to the Head and Hounds of Love Kate Bush- magisterial and tenderly emotional. Rolling and tumbling, it acts like rainfall- there is a consistent movement and flow that washes into your skin. Backed by echoing and warping electronic parables, that parabond gives the intro. an emotive and prosperous early life- you are compelled and intrigued by the fledgling seconds. Rushing and sweeping, the initial refrain splendidly leads our heroine in. Her voice determined and breathy, we see her in fragile and vulnerable mood- the first line is “Caught on my own again.” Keeping her soul and focus levelled gives listeners a chance to bond with the soft side of the song. Schofield presents a teasing and alluring vocal side- something that has been shown in a lot of her early work. With our heroine lost in confusions and doubts, one feels that a love may have broken down- perhaps her man has walked away or an argument has occurred. The sense of dislocation and hurt comes through in the performance- you instantly sympathise and yearn to hear the details (behind the lyrics). The track begins to build; Schofield becomes more urgent and insistent as she builds her words up and up- her boy has shown recklessness and a lack of maturity. With arrogance and inconsiderate behaviour being displayed, it is perhaps a good thing (that the love has dissipated)- it seems her man was not all he was cracked up to be. As each line grows with anger, the vocal rises to the challenge- it is breathier and much more determined. By the :40 mark, the chorus explodes into life. A dazzling and vibrant spectrum of colours, the edges break- the restraint is gone and Schofield lets her voice soar. Propelled by dizzying and rambunctious electronics, a summery and dance-ready swagger comes into effect. Our heroine does not portray rancorous anger and virulent accusations- she is over the worst of it; seemingly relived to be clear of such a human, the performance is instilled with loftiness and huge energy. Perfectly conjoining Ellie Goulding’s heady and atmospheric Halcyon cuts- with some of Coldplay’s early gems- the chorus is punchy, packed and pugnacious. Our heroine lets her voice power and project- the amount of strength she manages to whip up make sure you are singing along; caught in the wave of emotion and directness. After that burst of rebellion, Schofield calms and retreats. Her boy has clearly screwed up and taken too many liberties- our heroine ensures that he does not get back into her life. Imploring him to go away, a tactility is shown- not wanting to be touched, it is obvious things are beyond repair. Displaying a soulful maturity, Schofield ensures the words do not succumb to immaturity and histrionics. The stronger and ethical party, she is free to cast blame and aspersions. Her loser boy has clearly been catting around town; pursuing a woman- she is what he wants – any sympathy is obsolete. The disreputable idiot is chasing a woman who seems wrong and immature- Schofield has little time for his indiscretions and unfaithful lust. When things go bang- and they will- she advises not to pine or come crawling back- if he wants a comforting shoulder, he should look elsewhere. Thinking of “anyone but you” our heroine wants her former beau to fall- get a taste of his own venomous and poisoned medicine. Throughout the verse you can feel the vocal start to rise again- the tones because higher and crystal as the atmosphere swells and grows. Displaying an intuition for pace and composition, the song is not too crowded or cluttered- the vocal is up front in the mix; fascinating undertones of electronics add energy and potency. When the chorus comes back home, you learn more about the circumstances- can empathise with the heroine and join her in song. Instantly on her side, she is not downtrodden or woeful- her full and sky-scraping vocal is designed to get feet moving and arms swaying. Sparring club beats with Pop rushes; electronic parable with pummeling percussion, the lines and sounds go straight to your head- it is a drunkening and heady concoction. With her ex being such an egotistical and cancerous human, the song ensures that everyone roots for Schofield. When the words “I’m over it” are repeated and echoed- the stuttered and juddering delineation adds spark and electricity to the song’s key message- our heroine demonstrates her cutting-edge and contemporary qualities. A vocal and presentation that could easily dominate the charts, the likes of Goulding, La Roux and Foxes struggle to offer a similarly evocative and ear-catching semblance. Slinky, moody and low-down, the vocal is huskier and more alluring- beautifully partnering the sweet and high-sounding backing (vocal), the track steps up another gear- such is Schofield’s talent for mobility and transformation it almost passes you by. Too good to be made a fool of; too proud to cry her heart out, she is brushing the boy away- emasculating him with her cutting and meaningful sting. Whomever inspired the song is being given a thorough dressing-down. Just when you think the chorus is coming back to roost- most contemporaries would launch into the chorus- Schofield defies expectations; taking the song in another direction and ramping up the curiosity. Returning to previous lines- about being over it- this time the projection is different. The vocal- in the background- becomes more echoed and haunted; electric guitar lines are infused- the twirling and dervish-like composition elicits more of an energised rush and sense of smile. Never letting the song become depressed or mordant, our heroine keeps the energy high- that bright and glaring soul shines from start to finish. The song has the potential to soundtrack any occasion- just at home on stereos of cars pounding the open road; for the late-night rendezvous of clubs; the festivals under the burning sun- Over It Under It has no barriers or limitations. Before the mantra is repeated, our heroine punctuates the bridge with a swooping and vivacious electronic swallow. Building the foundations ever higher, Schofield backs her voice with cooing and wordless interjection- the sense of emancipation and freedom shines. One of the best kiss-off tales, you would imagine the nameless suitor feeling appropriately shamed- few songs have lashed as insistently and dangerously as this. Before the song comes to its conclusion, our heroine takes the volume down- the electronics disappear and dissipate (to be replaced by piano). Soft and conclusionary, Schofield shows her soft and graceful side- ensuring that she keeps the listener guessing and surprised. Few would expect the song to wrap up with such a beautiful sound- electronics are offered back in but stay demure and non-intrusive. By the final notes, you try to digest everything that has come before- it is a dazzling song that lodges in your brain and compels you to instantly replay.

With Over It Under It gaining some positive and impassioned reviews, it is only right I provide my support and praise. Having known Nina Schofield for a while, I am always delighted when her music comes out- something new and fresh is offered up. With every move she grows in stature and confidence; adding something new into her armoury- her latest single is the sound of a young woman with huge ambitions and intention. Someone who is primed for the mainstream- it cannot be long until she follows her heroes- I hope she gets as much appreciation and patronage as possible. Colours clearly struck a chord with listeners: receiving unanimous praise, you would forgive Schofield if she relaxed and took some time off- having worked so hard this last year. The young singer wants to get out there and perform: from school children to local revellers, she wants to make sure she touches as many as possible. Too many modern-day acts put in little effort; detach themselves from people; are contented to settle back and wait for the cheques to come in. Schofield is one of the most itinerant and tireless musicians out there- it is this determination and unwavering passion that will see her succeed. I fell in love with her E.P.; was amazed at the developments and new stories that came to life- the way each song was portrayed truly takes your breath. Not confined to fans of Ellie Goulding and Coldplay, her work is ubiquitous and bordeless- the sounds and sensations can be enjoyed and appreciated by every type of music-lover. Over It Under It keeps snaking and moving; the developments and progressions throughout the song take your mind in all sorts of directions. The production on the track is stunningly clear and consise- it allows the voice to shine (and ensure that none of the compositional strands get buried or distorted). Shiny and polished, it means the song comes across as hugely energised and urgent- not too shiny; it ensures the song isn’t gaudy and hollow. The performance from Schofield is stunning indeed- it is one of her most powerful and dominating vocal turns to date. Switching from gentle and tender to an emphatic and belting climb, she switches emotions and directions without stumbling or losing momentum- her vocal authority and passion never relents. Renowned for her distinct and compelling voice, it is put to full use here- few other songs see so much colour and contour projected (in such a short time). Of course, songs do not often succeed from vocal turns alone. With a stunningly emotive and sparkling composition- drawing Electro. rush with piano-led Pop swathes- it is a rich and deep mandate- with multiple layers and some incredible details. A clear eye for melody and nuance means the song keeps offering something new- the intelligence and thought imputed differs from a lot of the mainstream. Other acts- covering similar themes- would simply throw in as much force and volume in as possible- with no regard for concision and passion. Schofield makes stories of deceit and cheating sound upbeat and elliptical- the same sort of trick the likes of Kate Bush and Tori Amos pull off. Marking herself out as one of this country’s most unique talents, her blend of quirk, stunningly gorgeous vocals and musical talent makes her a fully-rounded and indefatigable talent- one who never stops working. Capable of mingling simple and direct messages with deep and emotive insights, Over It Under It is a song that will soundtrack the summer- if you listen to it (and do not sing along) you may technically be dead. The fact that Colours is filled with songs of equal weight- or higher- shows how consistent and high-reaching Schofield is- how many new musicians can grab you so instantly? If you are looking for a track that can elevate your mood; keep your thoughts occupied with fascinating scenes, dreams and thoughts- you need to investigate Over It Under It.

One of my ambitions this year is to see Nina Schofield in the live environment. The gorgeous Surrey-based singer is one of the most engaging and nicest artists I have come across- her songs are those which break through barriers; provide new spins on topics of love and loss; inspire hosts of listeners and people. Being someone enamoured of Indie and Grunge territory, I find myself yearning for more Schofield-produced music- when listening to her songs, your mind is freed and taken somewhere quite special. Entranced by her vocal magic- melting shades of Coldplay and Ellie Goulding in addition to her sensual and sweet-natured sound- few other singers resonate in the mind. Her lyrics go deep but stay relatable: Schofield takes in universal and ubiquitous topics; marrying them with her own inimitable personality and blend of sounds. Backed by compositions that are full-bodied, emotive and multifarious; our heroine skillfully blends in various genres- ’90s Indie-Pop, ’70s Soul and modern-day Electro. are commingled. It would be axiomatic to say that things are going to get better for Schofield- with such an innate passion for her art, we are going to hear a lot more work come from her. Her seductive and staggering beauty is only surpassed by her insatiably addictive music- it is small wonder she is gathering so many fans and so much pace. Colours is an E.P. I have reviewed before; Over It Under It is a song that I have focused upon- its ageless and nuanced quality compelled me to re-investigate it. Having published such a layered and diverse E.P.- which retains Schofield’s personality- I keep coming back to it- repeating songs and being swept up in the rushing power and vibrancy of the music. In an industry where the mainstream artists are starting to tire; the band market is starting to take the majorative market share- it is down to the solo acts of the underground to come through and shine bright. Nina Schofield is a mature and focused artist that has worked her socks off- and seems incapable of slowing or relenting. I shall wrap things up with a few more words- pointing out just where our heroine is headed. Having such a love for Pop and Electro. acts (like Coldplay and Ellie Goulding), it is clear Schofield has a passion for contemporary and current sounds. Growing up with so many fascinating and legendary musicians, this mixture of old and new makes her music so inspired- you are going to struggle to find many other artists that do things quite like her. As we reach the final months on 2014, Schofield should be very proud of what she has achieved- having touched so many people, there is going to be big demand (for her) in 2015. Over It Under It is a stellar statement from a young woman with a huge soul- someone who never stops moving and creating. With so many great new musicians coming through, it is wonderful seeing the diversity and quality shining. So much is on offer for the hungry listener; Nina Schofield is a colourful and eager artist that deserves huge success and patronage. Given her tireless work ethic and relentless creativity…

THAT will not be too far away.

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Track Review: Black Lady Soul- The Fall

TRACK REVIEW:

Black Lady Soul

The Fall

9.7/10.0

The Fall is available from:

The album Black Lady Soul is available to pre-order via:

http://blackladysoul.bandcamp.com/

RELEASED:
16 August 2014

TRACKLISTING:
The Rise (Intro.)
The Fall
El Dorado
Counting Sins (Vices Prelude)
Vices
Corin
Anchor
Penny Water
Subway Fare (Penny Water Reprise)
When Lions Roar
You & Me (Corin Reprise)
The Riddle

GENRES:
Neo-Soul, Soul, Hip-Hop, Rock, Indie, Rap, Alternative
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Determined to set themselves aside from other bands, Black Lady Soul are an engaging and hugely ambitious prospect- their self-titled debut will bring this all to life. The Fall is a song that hits you straight away; it compels repeated investigation- it stuffed with grace, power and punch. A band who seamlessly fuse multiple genres, they are among the most inventive players on the scene
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I am somewhat relieved that Black Lady Soul have come along.

I will investigate the band in more depth, yet their arrival marks something of a change: a back-story and style of music that I do not get to encounter often. For so long, I have been buried beneath music: most of the acts and biographies tend to tread the same sort of lines; offer similar fascination and appeal. My featured act separate themselves apart hugely- their diverse richness and ambition has marked them out as a band with a huge future. Before I investigate the act in more depth, I will raise one key point: Street-Soul. More a genre than a point, those two words will seem unfamiliar to many- a style of music that is not often experimented with. Although Black Lady Soul have a huge range- and more at their disposal than one particular genre- you do not often find a new act that dip into the annals of urban street life. Most fledgling artists play with safer and more predictable styles- Indie, Rock and Pop are among the most popular choices. Few upcoming musicians go that bit deeper- explore something with a vibrant and cutting edge. Not only providing new and rare force, the genre of Street-Soul offers a lot of potential- it is such a wide-ranging and prosperous style of music; I am surprised more acts are not utilising it. What my featured act do is to use it as a starting block; employ its grit and darker hues- tie it to something more elliptical and redemptive. Dismayed by the lack of true originality in the mainstream, Black Lady Soul seem like an act worthy of transcending to the highest ranks- they have the ability and talent to make a big name for themselves. Completing my trilogy of Canada-based music reviews- I am sure I will be investigating more in time- the band made me smile. They were formed from an open mic night: having never met before, the members all collaborated at Big Mic– a Toronto Hip-Hop showcase. Assembled from the remnants of other bands, the boys found an instant bond and common ground- it was a night that was to start a very prosperous and fantastic career. They are in their early stages, yet have a bond and sense of solidity few of their contemporaries possess- this is enforced in their fantastic music. Compelled by their history and wide-ranging music, I could not help but to study them in more depth- find out just what makes them ticks; distill their epic sounds into words. With a few thoughts on my mind, it is best I introduce the band to you (first of all):

“Black Lady Soul embodies a dirty rock groove, while embracing urban street soul. An experience that is moody and lyrical, backed by beat-driven drums and bass, alongside smooth, dynamic electric leads. “Neo-soul” and “indie rock” are used to attempt to describe Black Lady Soul’s sound, but the genres do not justly illustrate the band’s varied creations. Their songs change wildly in style, from upbeat dance grooves to melancholic rock pieces, shifting to orchestral ballads and moving seamlessly to down-tempo beats. Their art knows no form and is eclectic in nature although it has been described as “sounds like good sex”.

Black Lady Soul are looking forward to the release of their self-titled album- it will show the world just what they are capable of. Boasting hugely impressive sounds; wide-ranging styles, plenty of ambition- the album will show new acts just how much can be achieved. The best way for music to flourish and grow is to make sure it is as deep and diverse as it can be- not just sticking with stolid and predictable sounds. Too many acts focus too narrowly- their albums and E.P.s do not really go the extra mile. When you restrict your sonic output; confine your potential output- the results are going to be stifled and limited. The acts that broaden their horizons; dip into a varied and colourful palette are those that are going to stand out- survive the test of time and reach a wide number of different people. Black Lady Soul are a band that are hard to pin down- they have myriad styles and genres at their disposal; the way they incorporate and mingle sounds together is stunning. Cemented in their lead single, the Canadian act are sure to have a long career. It is clear the boys have a great bond and understanding- united by a common cause, the sense of closeness makes them sound so assured and confident. Few new acts arrive with such a bang and sense of intent- the ambition and quality that shouts out in The Fall is a very potent benchmark. The remainder of their album has plenty of story, heart, guts and glory- the 12 tracks provide a wealth of sound and information. Before I get down to investigating the band in more depth, I’ll raise one further point- the band market. I know I have bored the pants off of many- raising this same old issue- but I am coming at it from a different angle today. Reviewing such an eclectic band, it makes me wonder why more do not employ this same adventurousness and range- how come so many new acts are limiting themselves? Perhaps there are risks involved with expanding your horizons- by instilling that degree of ambition, a sense of focus and identity is lost. I have witnessed many new acts present an album or E.P. with huge stylistic shifts- from song-to-song new genres and avenues are explored. Freewheelin’ and experimenting like an early-career Beck is only effective if you are Beck- lacking his professionalism, intelligence and authority can leave you coming up rather short. It is impressive to see bands really going for it- if you diversify and aim with a nonchalance then you risk ruining your career (and being forgotten about). It is a sticky and dangerous avenue, this- getting the balance right is a hard job; retaining a distinct personality is one of the most important considerations every new act must fulfill. Black Lady Soul do not put out something as fragmented and kaleidoscopic as The White Album– if new bands tried something so insane and barnstorming, it may frighten off critical ears. Their self-titled debut- and lead single- is not too far off of the mark- you are amazed by how many different sights, sounds and flavours they infuse into their music. Not only do they manage to make their music cohesive and engaging; they mark themselves out as one of the most arresting acts out there- those who understand the vitality of ambition and defying convention. Having heard so many great things about them; seen the fervency and praise The Fall has garnered- I feel it is prudent to delve more into what makes the band tick. They are a sturdy and expectation-defying band that are a breath of fresh air- an act that we definitely need to keep our eyes open for.

When it comes to reflecting back at the band’s past work, it is a hard task- the guys are putting down their first fully-fledged movements now. The Black Lady Soul album is going to be the first chance to see the cohabitation of the group’s stunning ambitions and sounds. Our heroes offer up and provide unique experiences: their live performances are legendarily energised and memorable- fans have come away open-mouthed and revitalised. The marriage of dirty Rock grooves; that underbelly of silky Soul- coupled with a dynamic and stirring electricity- stands the band aside from most of their peers. As the group are formed off of the back of others, it is difficult to tie them in with past endeavours- what you hear now is a fresh and urgent new sound. The most contextually apt thing to do is to judge them on their mission statements and current moves. Having a distinctive and textured flavour, Black Lady Soul are a fresh breath of air- followers of nobody. It is going to be interesting to see how they follow-up their album- whether they look to do another L.P.; a series of E.P.s- or offer up some singles intermittently. Judging their present state of mind and ambitions, it is highly likely we will see more material in 2015- the momentum they will garner (from their album) should compel them to redress to the studio; lay down some new cuts- unleash them on the public. It is impressive how quickly and assuredly the band have put together their album: not contented to dangle their toes in the water; the group has gone straight in with a vibrant and full-bodied assault. Showcasing no loose edges at the seams, the boys come straight in with direct and meaningful intent- they have fervent and overflowing creative minds. Their next year should see them tour extensively; enthrall North America- in addition to wider avenues. Whatever material does arrive (will build from their current songs)- perhaps new inspiration will be provided; new genres explored and mastered. The great thing about the band is their range and multitudinous grasp: being so open and nuanced, they have huge potential- let’s hope this translates into some incredible future sounds. For now, the lads are sitting back and seeing how their album is received- the reception should be universal; most people will be giving it an assured thumbs-up. The affirmative, intriguing and fascinating songs (they elicit) will see them score hordes of new fans and supporters- putting them on the road to the mainstream.

When it comes to influences and inspirations- that have compelled the band- there are a few names I could offer in. One of the bands that come to mind- when analysing Black Lady Soul’s experimental side- is Portugal, The Man. The Alaskan band have a huge reputation for big ambitions (and a vast array of styles). On their album Evil Friends, they brought synths. and warm elements in- songs shift and change course over the space of a few seconds. With the tracks mobile and unpredictable, it is a thrill-ride that never lets go. Psychedelia and R ‘n’ B flavours come into the mix; distorted guitars and washed-out electronics augments the band’s luster. Backed by phenomenal productions; worldly and cutting lyrics- that tackles a range of issues and subjects- it is a stunning and assured album (from one of the world’s most prolific acts). Looking further back, In the Mountain in the Cloud is a dreamier and deeper album. Whereas Black Lady Soul combine elements of both albums, you can hear touches of Mountain‘ in their single The Fall. Cohesiveness and warmth mingled with edge and passion- on In the Mountain in the Cloud– an evolved album that tied together all of their previous work. Black Lady Soul delves deep and far- they have a tender and composed heart; their music wraps in blissed-out guitar riffs; teasing and tempting vocals- a whole host of different sounds and experiences. When Portugal, The Man unveiled Church Mouth, some of their primal urges came forth. Mixing in Led Zeppelin’s raw Blues sounds with some elements of Jane’s Addiction- it was a harder and more primitive beast. Songs with such drive and passion were always likely to prick critical ears- the fact the boys offered their own unique take on Zeppelin’s style was impressive. Countermelodies infuse with overlapped vocals- the band’s stream-of-consciousness deliveries did provide some mixed reviews. Whilst a lot of the lyrics and vocals suffered a lack of intelligibility, the sounds they proffered meant the album stood up to repeated listens- it is a deep work that ages incredibly well. When I look back at The Satanic Satanist– one of Portugal, The Man’s best works- there are some toned-down and warm Pop moments. Less experimental than later works, it has bright and breezy middles- the falsetto vocals and beautiful cores made the album resonate with fans. Crystal sounds and Chamber-Pop tracks bonded with ’60s Groove-Rock; Motown jams- the album’s friendliness and familiarity meant there were no derivative moments. Flawlessly crafted- and boasting wonderful chord progressions- it is one of the band’s fullest works. Black Lady Soul draw in swathes of Portugal, The Man’s past work. The Fall shows heartfelt and softer moments; it changes directions and course- the melting of various styles and sounds gives the song a huge weight of conviction. Whilst a brand-new band, it seems they could- one day- ascended the heights of Portugal, The Man- provide the music world the same sort of nourishment and quality. When looking at Street-Soul acts, The Roots are a name that occurred. If we consider their album Things Fall Apart, we can see some causal links. The Roots’ panache for promoting irresistible beats and smooth rhythms makes the album such a terrific work. Hip-Hop elements are provided with deep and thought-provoking lyrics- the band look at life on the streets and issues of poverty, wealth and reality. Black Lady Soul address comparable themes and topics: their ideals investigate the harsher elements of life; go beyond normal and predictable areas- delve deep into very relevant and pressing cores. In addition to sharing The Roots’ lyrical themes, Black Lady Soul create unpredictable instrumental lines; nimble rhythms and fantastically addictive tracks- that was fully addressed in Things Fall Apart. When The Roots unveiled The Tipping Point, they included Sly & the Family Stone shades; popping and locking beats come out- head-bobbing jams and well-constructed tracks shine through. Although Black Lady Soul have a bigger range (than The Roots) there are some familiar D.N.A. strands- those deep and meaningful lyrics; the mixture of addictive and upbeat sounds; the unpredictability. When surveying Black Lady Soul’s experimental drive, Beck entered my thoughts. Odelay is perhaps the most assured and stunning Beck album- the disc that showcases the man’s full genius. The 1996 masterpiece is one of my favourite; I am a fan of the likes of Guero and Modern Guilt– albums that show he has lost little of his steam and charm. In addition to being one of the finest albums of the ’90s, Odelay saw Beck confound expectations. The album joined shorter bursts with longer, sprawling songs- Black Lady Soul’s debut has a similar flair for concision and economy. Black Lady Soul provide collages and rainbows of sonics; they toss together disparate styles and genres; mix it together- come up with jam-packed and dizzying nuggets. Dirge-Blues numbers like Jack-Ass sit with hazy and brilliant cuts such as Where It’s At. Although Beck lobbed everything into the pot, the album does not feel over-stuffed or too rushing- the album flows smoothly and gives the music a dense sound. Soul reworks (Hotwax) and Rap reinventions (Where It’s At) are as comfortable with Blues juggernauts (Devil’s Haircut)- the man seemed to have no limits. Odelay is complete and solid; every track is compelling and gripping- because of that insane ambition and cornucopia of sound. Black Lady Soul show a similar attitude towards genre restrictions: their music hops and diverts; they cut-and-paste different strands into songs- the results are incredible. Beck draws in the listener with his tales of down-on-his-luck street life: his tracks pound the concrete and take you into bawdy and seedy sidewalks. Rough-hewn clubs are documented in Where It’s At; the man is disaffected and disconnected (in other numbers)- there is no heavy reliance on love songs and the first-person narratives. Black Lady Soul match Beck’s blend of deep and affecting lyrics with a maverick’s approach to sonics- the band are no hipsters; they have an authoritative ear for composition that bellies their embryonic state. When listening to the guitars and vocals on The Fall, a few names entered my consciousness. Soundgarden are a band that Black Lady Soul have never been compared to- I am sure they are not one of their biggest influences. Not quite matching Chris Cornell’s possessed and demonic screams, there are touches and suggestions of his graveled and groaning lowest notes. Superunknown– one of my favourite albums- shows a band at the peak of their powers. The album looked at alienation and despair- perhaps more harrowingly than In Utero– and is a phenomenal achievement. Soundgarden look at dislocation and depression; the harshness and struggle of modern life- the sense of repression and upheaval everyone has to face. In so much as I detect some Cornell-esque vocal hues, some of Black Lady’s themes and lyrics could fit within Superunknown. Black Lady Soul infuse Stoner-Rock licks- the likes of which Kim Thayil cemented- with galvanised, kinetic and catchy sounds. In addition to some passionate and masculine vocal distinctions, Black Lady Soul’s leader has a range and depth in his voice- capable of sky-scraping power and intense focus; it is a full-blooded and unrestrained animal. When put high in the mix, the vocals are given a chance to shine and guide- at times you wish the voice was higher still. Soundgarden- on Superunknown– dabbled with Pop and Psychedelia; they offer more detailed and melodic songs- everything blossoms and holds onto you. Black Lady Soul let their heart and soul become bleak and introverted: when they look around at the streets and dangerous corners, their pen bleeds readily- that same hard-hitting emotion- that Cornell is synonymous with- defines their work. It would be great to see Black Lady Soul incorporate some Grunge elements into future releases- perhaps coming up with something Soundgarden-esuqe. The Fall provides some scintillating and rapturous guitar work. When the strings spark and combust, I am reminded of Jack White. Perhaps more similar to his solo work- than his White Stripes tenure- there is a detectable similarity. Blues-Rock crawls and lascivious jams made Lazaretto such an instant hit- an album that showed White’s fastidious work ethic (it leads to wonderful results). Lazaretto saw fewer monster riffs: the album is a weirder and more unsettling listen- there is rife anger and accusatory slams; cagey, unhinged and itinerant. White is a diarist-cum-mad inventor: an artist that is focused as well as shape-shifting. Black Lady Soul’s guitar work has aspects of White’s ferocious and bizarre edges- if you listen to The Fall, you can imagine White would nod his head in approval. The band also instill some of White’s disaffectedness and overt anger into their pot- the malaise directed towards the current generation can be heard in Black Lady Soul. The word ‘sex’ is synonymous with the band- whether fables or urban myths, fans have been known to get their rocks off to their songs. It is hardly a huge stretch when you consider it: that seductiveness-cum-sexuality that eek through in their wicked sounds is enough to make a eunuch horny. Not relying on inflamed and rambunctious strings- to get the juices flowing- the vocals are appropriately louche and drunken. When I was reviewing The Fall, I caught whispers of Pixies and The Mars Volta. A lot of the track remains controlled and focused; our frontman lets his slithering and cooing instrument rouse forms of terror, shadow and conviction. When you hear some of Doolittle‘s (Pixies album) whispers and slurs- parts of Tame and Gauge Away- hat theatric and insistent draw echoes in the vocals. Through The Fall– you sense explosions are imminent- when the high-points do arrive, they pack plenty of punch. The Mars Volta showed melting beauty and insanity on Frances the Mute. The vocal work brought every song into clear view: visceral and powerful projections stand the lyrics out; ensure the listener is attentive and enraptured. Whilst more restrained than The Mars Volta, Black Lady Soul ensure the vocal work is equally imperious: their album also injects plenty of brilliance and far-reaching musical ambitions. Frances the Mute seemed like a live album: the sounds and performances are raw and bare- Black Lady Soul’s production values promote that same direct live sound.

The Fall does not so much as begin with a bang- more like an interrobang. Questions and exclamations are raised within the squalling and frightening opening seconds. Tense, nervy and high-pitched; the strings are elicited with a menacing receipt- the listener is jarred into life with its unsettling force and shriek. Twanging and soulful bass notes are louche and cool: juxtaposing the infantile cry of before, they calm the senses- make the listener relaxed and at ease. Soon the two factions unite; joined with direct and driving percussion, the song’s intro. mutates and evolves- within 25 seconds the band cover a wider sonic spectrum (that most acts pull off in an entire song). Ensuring the fascination levels do not drop, the parable never escapes your attentions. The occasional sharp high-pitched utterance is blended with the bouncing and burbling iciness of the bass notes; the light and impassioned percussion adds colour and soul- the ensuing cocktail is dizzying and hypnotising. When our hero arrives to the mic., his voice instantly hits the mark. Sounding like no other, his tones have a hushed whisper; a gravel and growling undertone- resonating conviction and passion to boot. The lyrics intrigue the senses and compel the mind- both direct and byzantine; oblique and meaningful, you search for deeper meanings. “Sweet on her eyes/flutter and refined” are the initial offerings- the way the lines are projected really enforce the words. I imagine some quixotic and alluring heroine; a mercurial and beautiful blend that is causing twitterpation and unparalleled lust. The way our frontman breathes and punctuates his words gives the lines a sensuality, seductiveness and lustful quality. When our man is alone, he is a “beggar in your honied home.” I love the way the last word is delivered: submissive and tongue-licking, it puts me in mind of the likes of Black Francis and Kurt Cobain. I did not mention Nirvana- when looking at comparable bands- and perhaps should have. There are definite hints of Francis in the delivery and slight eccentricity; Cobain’s masculine heart and inimitable tones show themselves- I do not often get to hear these two mixed together a lot. Bolstered by that rousing and indelible composition, events get heated and more amplified: the vocal roars and becomes scratchier; possessing Grunge elements and Soundgarden-cum-Nirvana-via-Pixies swagger. Our hero claims that “Under you is the truth“: perhaps it looks at literal falling and gravitational pull; my mind was taken to the bedroom. Metaphors for sexual positions and control, it seems like we are in the fire of a passionate encounter- the woman is perhaps using our man and trying to control things. I may be over-reaching and digging too deep; I suspect the band do not mean their words in a literal sense- they encourage the listener to think harder and let the music enforce their mindset. When our relegated frontman proclaims “Maybe I am no use to you“, you can pick up on that deflated and angered façade- you know that a huge expressive burst is just around the corner. It does come; before we get there, Jazz elements- the bass breeze; finger-clicks; sedate and romanticised flow- bonds with eerie and spectral Grunge/Indie motifs- the band showcase just how fertile and unrestrainable they are (as sonic innovators and masters of their craft). When our hero comes back to the throng, his voice is spiked and reinforced. The words are spat and studded; he lets his tongue sting and stutter- the urgency and potency which with he delivers the lines are hard to ignore. “You took it too far” it seems; the heroine perhaps has been screwing our man around; overplaying her hand and forcing issues. The beauty of the song is down to the open nature of the words: as I scan the lyrics, the lines could apply to governmental forces; life in general; dark forces suffocating the soul- your mind does not have to go straight to romantic possibilities. Every listener has their own take and interpretation- that is the gift music gives- yet I am sure the band have an absolute truth- it will be interesting to see how it differs from my offerings. With one lobe of my brain towards the sweat of the bed; the other concentrated towards gritty and urban dislocation, the track keeps on pounding and campaigning. Enthralled by the intense and urgent vocal; the continued flair and fascination of the composition, you are curious to see how things work out. The band fill in a lot of the story’s chapters- their tight and intuitive performance makes The Fall so heartfelt and authoritative. Completely in line and as one, the unified brothers ensure every note and crepuscular semi-quaver is gleaming with lustful and lascivious wealth. Our frontman is in philosophical and considerate mood: when singing “am I the mirror you choose?”, I begin to wonder about my initial impressions- I am leaning towards lines that look at fractured relations and the nature of truth. The beguiling and frustrating tease the lines promote get your mind working overtime: forced into overdrive, you endlessly dig beneath the surface- try to gain some semblance of cohesion and well-founded fact; understand just what is being reflected. That oblique nature makes the song so impressive and tantalising. After the linear and straight-ahead projection of the previous lines, the song shows some more compartmentalisation- the next lines are woozily and dreamily drawled; in the throes of exhaustion and disarray, our hero becomes enraptured in the spindly and lucrative Jazz backing. Some of the final thoughts offer deep and penetrative glimpses- into our man’s psyche. Stating “Beauty in the darkened room is everybody else/she is you she is me she” your thoughts (once more) percolate and extrapolate- it is yet another nugget that takes your brain in different directions. Before you can delve into the recesses of your own imagination, the band ensure you focus upon them- a firestorm, barn-storming riff is pulled out of the bag. Spacey, electric and deranged, it is the sort of line Muse would kill for- you could see it scoring a Absolution-era gem. Eviscerating and punishing, the squealing and brutalised guitar regime bays for blood- backed by double bass, it is a perfect storm. That jazzy and refined element works well against the undisciplined and spoiling-for-a-fight menace of guitar- Jekyll and Hyde all at once. Propelled by some avalanche percussion and guiding bass notes, the song keeps building up and up- our man is not done talking yet. The chorus comes back into play- almost acting as a final fit; his final belly ache. Not prone to pouting or tantrum, our hero is strong and forceful- when delivering his lines- he knows there is nothing he can do, and senses he will have to walk away. The final 20 seconds provide some form of closure and deliverance: the echoed and space age guitars keep pervading; the percussion is more temporized and delicate- the mood starts to come down and settle. With one final burst and throw of the dice, a lightning flash is presented- the song comes to an end. Being only 3:41, it staggering how much ground is covered; the reactions (the song) provokes- you are compelled to replay the song time and again. Assuaging any cynicisms or doubts- that a band with so much at their disposal can sound focused- The Fall is a triumphant and glistening track. Providing the first taste of Black Lady Soul, it will have many mouths salivating in anticipation- I am going to be one of the first to snap up their album.

It has been great stepping away from albums for a bit- I have been reviewing songs recently; in fact the next two reviews I will write are singles. As much as I love seeing a band offer a full L.P., it is terrific to be able to focus on one particular song- pick it apart and try to get to its heart. Most of the time, I can interpret tracks pretty well- I have a few misses but my strike rate is pretty high. With The Fall, I hope I have got some way near the mark- one suspects the band will correct me with regards any misinterpretation and over-analytic insights. The song is so deep and fascinating, it is a track you will hopeless try to understand and crystallise- the lyrics have that seductive blend of directness and distance. Speaking about love- or perhaps wider considerations- it is a track that is impossible to dislike. It speaks to everyone; in a way every listener can find something relatable and personal in the words- we have all been in similar situations; the same thoughts and outpourings in our mind. Before I pat the band on the back, I will give some last impressions (on The Fall). Within their album, the boys will explore multiple genres and sounds: concision and ambition are hallmarks that will make it an essential purpose. As taut and meaningful as anything they will produce, The Fall is a track that hits you straight away- it has such a unique and odd beauty is it impossible not to fall in love with. Providing some Grunge elements- it will be great to hear this explored more in future records- the band tie in Jazz and Soul; some Pop moments nestle beneath- that Urban/Street-Soul fusing runs rampant throughout. With a determined and impressive centre, the planets that orbit the core are no less startling- each of the instruments and lines perfectly unite with one another. A song that never outstays its welcome; one that never needlessly rallies and shouts, it wins plaudits because of its contrite elements. It may seem odd- given Black Lady Soul have such an array of weapons- but the boys do not go overboard or jam too much in- they ensure that a muscular and urgent sound enforces the words; the way they blend this with compositional innovations is stunning. Eerie and spacey, hard-hitting and venomous; you are left impressed by the quality and passion throughout The Fall. Few modern bands produce such deep and intelligent music- it is a sad fact- so it is great the likes of Black Lady Soul are upon us. The boys are fully in-tune and of the same: their close relationships and bonded souls mean the song is tight and professional. Seamlessly coming across as a live recording and well-rehearsed, I love how assured and rounded the track is- I can point at no foibles or quibbles whatsoever (they’ll be relieved to hear!). The vocalisations and singing is what lodges in my brain. Having heard no singer like Black Lady Soul’s leader, I was taken aback by the performance. At once restrained and domineering, I was caught up in the mesmeric effect of his pipes- the projection, emotion and pacing brings life to the song’s lyrics. At once syncopated and unusually-paced, the next levelled and punchy; the distinctions brought in make the song so compelling and layered. Drawing in brief suggestions of Black Francis, Kurt Cobain and Cedric Bixler-Zavala- it is a heady and unexpected brew defined by a stark originality and personality, the vocal is rare and distinct- few modern singers dare to be themselves these days. The guitar work throughout The Fall is insatiable and unleashed: always showing itself as a threat, the divine and ghostly string stings lodge in your brain- in the intro. they are particularly effective. When psychedelic and psychotropic swathes are lashed, you see another side to the guitar- something full-bodied and intractable. Showcasing as much range and nuance as the vocals, the guitars say so much without having to flex too much. Double bass and bass notes provide guiding light and stability- in addition to offering drive and emotion. Few listeners would expect to hear a double bass feature on a song like The Fall– or any for that matter: chic, groovy and sophisticated, it is the mature and refined gentleman of the piece. By no means effete or minor, a passionate heart and soul is summoned up- those Jazz elements give the song so much light and fascination. Percussion strides are elicited with great consideration for atmosphere and story- they do not aimless smash and fill in the blanks. Austere and firm when needed; loose and playful towards the outro., the percussion is one of the song’s most important comrades. When the chorus arrives, it becomes tightened and more teeth-bearing- truculent and galvanised, you cannot escape its draw and lure. All of the combined elements- including some leading and lyrical bass work- make The Fall such a gem. The band are committed to what they are performing; determined to make the song stick and pervade- I predict big things for the boys. They seem ready-made for the big leagues- they sure as hell need to come to London and put their music on the capital’s stages.

Having burbled and rambled for a while- sorry about the word count- my loquaciousness and excitement is well-founded: this Canadian group are a distinct and brave act that deserve big succeed. Too many new artists play things safe: arrive with a honed and restricted sense of lust- too concerned with nailing a particular sound or style. So much more can be obtained when you widen your sights; take the time to do something different and genuinely new- Black Lady Soul have impressed me greatly. Before I heard about the band- they contacted me to see if I would like to review their single- the music they present was a little fresh to me. Certainly I had not heard anything quite like The Fall: that fascinating and fresh sound; a vibrant tale from a very hungry and dedicated band. It will be fantastic to see how their album is received by the general public- just what sort of praise and feedback the boys will be reaping. The early signs and impressions are all very encouraging: The Fall has been garnering widespread YouTube acclaim- commentators and listeners have given it a resounding thumbs-up; impressed by its intoxicating sound and terrifically engaging quality. I hope that my words have done justice to the song; drilled down to its bedrock- assessed it the way the boys would see fit. If I haven’t, then apologies; the band have such a sense of force and defiance, you find yourself scrambling to find the right adjectives- f*** just about sums it up. The music industry is getting pretty packed and claustrophobic at the moment- as I speak, 3000 new boy bands have formed; 20,000 Indie groups have named their first single- the competition is pretty damn high. The growth of musical output almost parallels the worldwide birth rate- it is exhausting keeping a track of all the musicians coming through. Too many acts and solo artists have such a thin and hollow skin- they make a decent stab of things but essentially just get in the way of things. The acts that project something more compelling should be brought to the forefront- not only to set a good example but appeal to as many listeners as possible. Over the next few days, I am reviewing two stunning female artists- Nina Schofield and Dana McKeon- who are two of the U.K.’s most compelling and fascination young artists. Their combined make-up provides electrifying Pop and passionate vocals; street sounds and modern-life mandates- plenty of sex appeal and restrained beauty. I am loyal to Britain and the wonders we provide- I am equally keen to see international acts flourish and gain a multi-national foothold. Incandescent, virulent and artistic, the Black Lady Soul boys are the rarest of things: a band that retain a distinct identity but do so with such a wide-ranging and eclectic projection. Street-Soul is a sound and form of music that does not do a lot of bidding down this way- we have Rap, Grime and Hip-Hop; nothing that really sounds quite the same. I know just what the lads are going to bring forth- with the release of their album- the beautiful and quiet moments; orchestral and symphonic moments; dancing grooves and introverted Rock pieces- it will be dizzying to see just what they manage to come up with. If The Fall is anything to go by, we will be hearing a hell of lot from these Canadians- a band that are not hear for a short stay. I shall wrap up in due course, but will leave you all with one consideration: the music of 2015. Having seen some great mainstream acts fly high- from La Roux to Sam Smith- it makes me wonder just how things will fare for the new musicians- who will survive and which ones will fall. When reviewing various acts- from all across the world- I instinctively know who will be around for years to come; who will capitulate and crumble; which are less predictable. Black Lady Soul are in their infancy; they have a lot of music to put out- the good thing is that there will be a big market for them. If they were a tired and fatigued Rock act, then I would not be so assured- the fact that their first steps are so forceful leads me to believe that they will do just fine. As I bid farewell to Canada- for a week at least- I have seen some diversity and huge quality- from the three bands I have assessed this last week. If this damn nation keeps stamping out such terrific acts, I may well have to move over there- somewhere that isn’t too cold at least! The U.K. is offering some phenomenal and terrific music; Canada is still edging the race by a slight gap- I am still unable to fathom just how they do it. Whilst I draw up some equations- to try to crack it- I will let you investigate a bright and stunning act- one that proffers something genuinely unexpected and bountiful. Make sure you listen to The Fall; pick up their album and fully explore an ambitious and bold group of young men- those who cannot be labelled and defined by particular genre guidelines. The Canadian chaps float to the heavens like a balloon; glide the breeze with a sense of freedom and independence- both ethereal and eye-catching. It is my hope the lads will come to the U.K. and let their Black Lady Soul add colour to our lives. Until then, I shall say one thing: Bye bye black balloon…

SEE you real soon.

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Follow Black Lady Soul:

Facebook:

https://www.facebook.com/BlackLadySoul

Twitter:

BandCamp:

http://blackladysoul.bandcamp.com/

YouTube:

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCh21NAI9Xk9FvUw23w-O-EA

SoundCloud:

ReverbNation:

http://www.reverbnation.com/show/11737858

Last F.M.:

http://www.last.fm/music/Black+Lady+Soul
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Black Lady Soul merchandise available via:

http://blackladysoul.bandcamp.com/merch/black-lady-soul-t-shirt

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Black Lady Soul’s music can be heard here:

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About the Author:

             https://musicmusingsandsuch.wordpress.com/about/

Track Review: Royal Tusk- Shadow of Love

TRACK REVIEW:

Royal Tusk

Shadow of Love

9.4/10.0

hiddenpony’s avatar

Shadow of Love is available from:

The E.P. Mountain is available via:
https://soundcloud.com/hiddenpony/sets/royal-tusk-mountain

RELEASED:
10 July 2014

TRACKLISTING:
Shadow of Love9.4
Engine9.3
Smoke Rings9.4
The Letter9.5
Years Ago9.3
Jesus Saves9.4

STANDOUT CUT:
The Letter

DOWNLOAD:
Shadow of Love, Smoke Rings, The Letter, Jesus Saves

GENRES:
Americana, Soul, Rock
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Good luck stopping these mammoths! This Canadian quintet unleash Shadow of Love: the opening track of Royal Tusk‘s E.P., Mountain. Backed with punch, passion and accusation; it is a musical powerhouse that sets out their agenda- one that is hard to refute
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HAVING just read an interesting article in the Irish Mirror; a distinct point struck my mind.

In an interview conducted with Wild Beasts, their frontman- Hayden Thorpe- was decrying the state of mainstream bands. Exhausted by the flock and overabundance of rent-a-band compositions; the Yorkshire singer pointed out the lack of passion and genuinity in the music scene. Being a huge fan of the band- especially their Two Dancers album- I couldn’t help but agree. If you look at Wild Beasts themselves, you can hear and feel the sympatico and brotherhood: all of their recordings are instilled with a bond and sense of togetherness that makes them so compelling- they are not merely a group thrown together to flatter the frontman’s ego. Having just come out of a recession, there is a slight freeze on these unwanted ranks- the numbers have been capped a little. When in the midst of the financial crisis, the mainstream seemed to be stuffed full of wealthy and fame-seeking bands: artists that were desperate to put their faces on as many pieces of merchandise as possible. Concerned with profit and fame- over credibility and music- it caused many fans and listeners to balk and retreat- in addition to money being tight, few were willing to indulge the greediest and least honourable bands. Unfortunately, the disease has not been eradicated: there are too many acts playing that do not have their hearts and minds in the right place- the lure of money still compels. Thorpe went onto state (that there is too much careerism) and the lack of risks- saying music shouldn’t always make sense; it should make you think. Decrying the influx of singer/songwriters- who simply employ musicians to fill out their sound- the band market contains too many posers and pointless examples. When Wild Beast came about- towards 2008- they were awkward and different: sticking out and emanating (from regions that did not have a cultural movement), they were a moonshot- perhaps they would not have survived if they had been formed post-recession. Because of this mainstream malady, more people are becoming inspired by new acts- those that see corporatism as evil; choosing to rebel against it. In the course of my duties, I witness so many acts (that back Hayden Thorpe up): boys and girls that are together to make their music touch people- they are not on the scene to rake in big bucks. When mainstream acts capitulate, there is an element of Schadenfreude- when new acts crumble, there is genuine unease and worry. A lot of time the acts are strong and ambitious; they cease to exist because of the fierce competition. It is great that there is so much quality coming through; I hope the most worthy acts do make their mark- my featured act are an example of a band that deserve big rewards. A community of like-minded and dedicated brothers, the musician minds of Royal Tusk instill their sounds with as much passion and dedication as you could ever find. Flicking between ruminative Americana, potently emotive Soul- hard and driving Rock- the band are one of the most mobile and hard-working bands today. I am in the middle of a Canadian 1-2-3: having just reviewed Ontario’s City and the Sea I am preparing my mind for Toronto’s Black Lady Soul- the country is keeping my mind busy. What I find- when looking at Canada- is the sheer conviction and solidity of the bands: the musicians associated have a fond respect and appreciation for one another- making their music as stunning and potent as they can. I want to expand on this point- and refer to another point Hayden Thorpe raised- but will introduce you to my featured act:

Daniel Carriere
Sandy MacKinnon
Motorbike James
J. Eygenraam
Kurtis Schultz

You can’t stop a mammoth. Especially a rock ‘n’ roll mammoth led by singer/guitarist Daniel Carriere and bassist Sandy MacKinnon. Royal Tusk is the name of their beast — a shaggy, tenacious force with hints of Americana, soul, and a whole lotta heart. Their first six-song EP, Mountain, is due June 10 on Hidden Pony Records. You could say the title refers to the pair’s immovable friendship, but it’s also a cheeky nod to their persistence as musicians — not even a mountain can deter Royal Tusk. “We’ve been pushing a cart uphill for years,” Carriere chuckles. “We just don’t know how to stop,” MacKinnon admits. You might recognize the two from Ten Second Epic, one of Edmonton’s most beloved rock bands. After 12 years, three albums and two Juno nominations, Ten Second Epic is winding down, but Carriere and MacKinnon still want to make music together. “With the experience of Ten Second Epic, we learned how to do it right, so we know which tunes to put forward …,” says Carriere. “… And not to be so sensitive if something isn’t as good as something else,” adds MacKinnon, who sports a tattoo of a bass-playing mammoth on is right arm. “Not to mention having spent the last 12 years in a van.” “Some of these songs are really old. I feel there’s a certain amount of climbing … and learning what you really wanna do. There’s also a certain amount of catharsis, as if you’re closing a chapter by writing these songs,” Carriere says. “Most of them, kind of cryptically, address certain people, relationships that I’ve had in my life. During some downtime from Ten Second Epic, Carriere also briefly co-fronted DreamFace, a pop band. “I wanted to make sure Royal Tusk was very player-oriented, whereas in DreamFace, I pretty much wrote every part and recorded it,” says Carriere. Keyboardist Motorbike James, guitarist J. Eygenraam and drummer Kurtis Schultz round off Royal Tusk. “With Royal Tusk, I get a rough idea of a song and say, ‘OK, guys, let’s go, write your parts!’ I wanted to get excited again, hear what they bring to the table. Sometimes if you write every single note, you’re like ‘What is this?’ It’s the dynamic between people that makes music fun and inspires you.” You can hear the fun and excitement on Mountain, produced by Gus Van Go (The Stills, Said The Whale, Hollerado). Even when Royal Tusk is tackling heartache, regret or indecision, their songs seem to burst with joy — thanks to bubbly organs, soulful grooves, elasticized riffs, and Carriere’s warm, but defiant vocals on tracks such as the first single, Shadow of Love, and The Letter. With a forth-coming EP and impending tour dates, Carriere and MacKinnon will once again get in the van and continue pushing forward. Nope, you really can’t stop a mammoth.”

I will investigate Royal Tusk’s music anon; first I am compelled to raise another point. Harking back to that man Hayden Thorpe- another interview point really spoke to me. In 2014, we have as much stored music and resources as any time during history- the baffling and mind-boggling array of recorded sounds is confounding. New artists are faced with an exhausting and baffling task: which sounds and artists do you incorporate into your music? The Wild Beasts frontman weighed up the blessing and curse of choice- having so much at your disposal can cause many to sweat with exhaustion. Perhaps the risks- of dipping into musical history- are outweighing the benefits- new bands tend to limit their sonic output and variation. As much as I love Indie and Rock bands- the wonder and passion they can enforce- I yearn for sounds that do things a bit differently- take their mind away from the predictable and surprise the listener. Royal Tusk are no workaday average band: their blends of Americana, Rock and Soul are a treat for the ears; they have been seducing critics and setting their sights apart. Just to look at the striking five-piece is to see something different: our hirsute and intriguing heroes are not the predictable mass of ripped jeans and moody stares; no man necklaces and dark glasses appear in their publicity photos- they are MEN who make epic music; the epitome of the brave new wave of artists coming through. Imbued with as much determination, ambition and force (as most bands out there), the guys have cleverly dipped into music’s (vast and bounteous) chest of resources- infused elements together to elicit something genuinely fresh and stunning. The band is clearly very close and tightly-knit: the music is player-orientated and a solid foundation. There is no dictatorship; the guys are not preening and genuflecting (to the beat of the frontman)- everything is equally-distributed within the ranks of Royal Tusk. The Canadian band have overcome two near-insurmountable objects: not only are they a genuine and honest band; they ensure their music is distinct and fervent- stunning enough to blow away the cobwebs of predictability. This brilliance and artistry is cemented in their E.P., Mountain. I will be giving the E.P. a short review- in the conclusionary paragraph- yet have been compelled by their latest single- the brilliant Shadow of Love. The lead-off track from their stunning E.P., it has caused many excited Internet tongues to proffer a-wagging: commentators have been quick to point out the song’s joyous mix of beauty and soul- the hard edges and the gutsy and tender middles. Few bands have such a terrific blend of sounds and sensations- they are an act I will be following for as long as I can.

When it comes to assessing Royal Tusk’s previous work, it proves to be a difficult task. The band was formed from the ashes of acts like Ten Second Epic- the group contained Royal Tusk members Daniel Carriere and Sandy MacKinnon. Albums such as Count Yourself In contained a lot of Emo and Rock edges- the songs were more consistently hard than Royal Tusk’s latest work. Displaying some of the hallmarks that have gone into Mountain– the band’s follow-up- Hometown was awash with catchy riffs, soaring melodies and insatiable lyrics. Others such as Stand Up and First & Foremost impressed critics greatly: the songs striking riffs and huge memorability stood out in the mind. Whereas a lot of the tracks were guitar-driven- the album clocked in nearly an hour long- there was plenty of diversity and range. Warm Pop moments and atmospheric avenues were mingled; the band opened up their palette and created one of their finest works. Having gained huge acclaim throughout Canada, it is a shame that the band decided to call things quits- you can hear the development from the work of Ten Second Epic. Retaining those distinct guitar sounds and sense of range, Royal Tusk offer something new: the band seem more in-tune and together; the songs more fully-rounded and effortless- the democracy and openness of the creative process has led to richer and more rewarding songs. Dipping more into Americana and Soul sounds, Royal Tusk have a lot at their disposal: the songs on Mountain are testament to the fervent and unadulterated ambition (and talent at work). The biggest development and change is the band themselves: they sound different and separate themselves from Ten Second Epic- Carriere and MacKinnon have not simply put together a duplicate group. Because of this, you must assess Royal Tusk on their initial work- the sounds and sensations emanating from their E.P. Shadow of Love is warm and has trippy edges: the intro. takes your mind away from Ten Second Epic and towards something new and alert. Showcasing some biblical and elephantine riffs, the song is a mixture of surprises and huge fireworks- the boys are in inspired and compelling mood. Smoke Rings has heart-felt and emotive melodies: the song has a mellifluous and breezy soul that ties the myriad and multifarious riffs together. The Letter is a tender and emotive ballad that has strength and plenty of passion- it is one of the standout songs on the E.P. I shall review the tracks in greater depth, yet it is clear that this exciting outfit mean business: their E.P. is not merely a collection of samey songs and tired retreads- there is plenty for everyone to enjoy. Whilst some reviewers may have yearned for more riff-heavy kicks, it is a minor detraction- Mountain is impressive because of its different contours and colours. An E.P. that was chocked with heavier and more psychedelic sounds would grow tiring- it would not contain necessary nuance and diversity. Appealing to a wide range of listeners and fans, what Royal Tusk have done is put together a solid and fascinating work- one that will surely lead to many more recordings. Their sounds are assured and confident; completely intuitive and together- the partnerships between the band members has solidified and galvanised their music- the performances are universally compelling.

When trying to look at influences for Royal Tusk, it is a difficult job. Having such a unique and fresh sound, you can only detect the most minor of influences really- bits of choruses and riffs put you in mind of other artists. In interviews, the band have hinted at inspirations and influences; some of Mountain‘s songs have whiffs of well-known acts. When hearing some of the spellbinding and energised guitar work- on the E.P.- I was put in mind of modern-day Muse. Albums like The Resistance were packed with shout-choruses and huge atmopsherics- the big musical ambition and vocal virtuosity made the album so compelling. Mountain contains similar themes and qualities: the biggest numbers have anthemic flair and headiness; choruses and lines that compel the listener to shout along in unison. Hugely titanic guitars and multi-layered melodies made The Resistance such a huge proposition- there was Rock-Opera and bombast; extravagance and epics. Whereas Royal Tusk do not employ Rachmaninoff-style pianos and classical overtures, they do instill some of Muse’s upbeat and foot-stomping grandeur- songs such as Shadow of Love are testament to this. The vocals on Mountain are suitably sky-scraping and lustful; like Bellamy’s performances- on The Resistance– there is huge soulfulness and crooning emotion. The 2nd Law saw Muse continue their charm offensive: the album contains slick production and a sonic innovation. Pushing themselves further than they have before, Muse incorporated a wide array of sounds and genres- it was one of their most diverse discs. Although The 2nd Law came off a little disjointed and scattershot, Mountain manages to tie its diverse threads together- there is more cohesion and solidity within the E.P. Like Muse’s 2011 album, Mountain has plenty of emotion and introspection. Muse- on The 2nd Law– looked at personal demons and harsh emotions; themes of alcoholism and depression were explored- wrapped up in atmospheric and deeply touching sonics. Royal Tusk tie together Muse’s latter-career work; that same mixture of fist-pumping jams (and deep and compelling gems). Arctic Monkeys is a name that I will mention. Usually reserved for Indie bands and U.K.-based artists, I can see some of the Sheffield boys’ artistry come through in Mountain. When the riffs get dirty and primal, I heard embers of AM– the band’s latest album. Carrying on from Humbug‘s Josh Homme-inspired inputs- darker riffs; Desert Rock sounds; something altogether sexier- the band produced an album filled with muscular and taut Rock (and melodic Pop moments)- they united their Humbug and Suck It and See work. Royal Tusk infuse some Hip-Hop-influenced guitars- the time signatures and distinct patterns that Arctic Monkeys experimented with on AM (can be seen on some of Mountain‘s songs). The endless energy and fun- that defined Arctic Monkeys’ early work- has influenced Royal Tusk- the band never sound anything but intent and meaningful; even their most introspective songs contain plenty of light and beauty. AM possesses plenty of craft, musicianship and confidence- the songs were uniformly tight and nuanced. Royal Tusk ensure their music is well-crafted and studied- there are no loose edges or aimless jams to be found. Strong rhythmic moments, fuzzy guitars and lust. AM was a work by a band who wanted to be seen as artists; rather than Indie boys- it screams ambition and professionalism. The slow juggernauts, hand-clap moments and electrifying luster- that defined AM– can be seen in Mountain. Royal Tusk may not lace their lyrics with as much potery and wordplay; their compositions are jammed with power, story and unexpectidness- they subvert expectations and create something quite startling. Having mentioned the Homme-produced Humbug– I shall mention Queens of the Stone Age. Mountain contains some Desert-Rock crawls; slinking and snaking riffs- you can compare it with Like Clockwork… On Queens’ latest disc, the boys upped the volume and crunch; made sure the album had as much denseness (and tautness) as they had ever displayed. Gone were the sprawls and Desert-Rock reliance: instead the band incorporated interwoven riffs and purposeful tightness. The cuts on Like Clockwork… were more song-orientated and mature; catchier and more assured than anything that had gone before- something Royal Tusk employ. The Canadians draw in these elements, but install some of Era Vulgaris‘ ragged and wild energy- those direct and missile hits come into the bargain. Royal Tusk possess some of Queens’ current grooves and razor-sharp songwriting- songs go from shuddering and dark through to swaggering and sexy. no two songs sound alike; the mobility and colourfulness that comes through defines Mountain. When choruses become impassioned and emotive, I hear touches of early-career Matchbox 20. The Florida band’s debut work- Yourself or Someone Like You– was synonymous with Rob Thomas’ heartfelt and stadium-sized vocals. That albums draws in the basic elements of ’90s Rock; augments the blueprints of Classic-Rock- married them in a boiling pot of melodic and catchy bravado. Centered around Thomas’ emphatic and sturdy vocals, the band’s early days won over masses of fans. Although Royal Tusk are stronger and more impressive, they do mix in some of Matchbox 20’s qualities. When Mad Season came about- the band’s sophomore album- here there was plenty of mainstream American-Rock catchiness; huge craftsmanship that emphasised melodies and brought fun and shine into proceedings- something I can hear along Mountain. The Canadian quintet instill plenty of well-produced and rounded songs; gems that stand up to repeated listens- songs that are perfect for sunnier climbs and warm days. Before I hint at some band-specific icons- that Royal Tusk are influenced by- I will mention one more name- My Chemical Romance. The now-defunct icons won over legions of supports with their distinct and alert sound. Of the band’s four albums, The Black Parade and Three Cheers for Sweet Revenge are the most relevant comparables. The mega-decibel kick of The Black Parade made every track- on the album- so alive and emphatic; there was Rock-Opera and H-bomb bombast. Although The Black Parade was a concept album, it engaged critics with its blend of interesting storybook characters-cum-Progressive ambitions. Combining Prog-Rock swathes with Rock-Opera riffs, it is My Chemical Romance’s most cohesive and scintillating work. Royal Tusk project some of these elements with Three Cheer for Sweet Revenge. Stompers like I’m Not Okay (I Promise) showed a relentless drive towards energy and claustrophobic realms. Although Royal Tusk do not portray the same blood-stained scenes, they have an ear for thematic storytelling- their tracks draw you into some fascinating and eye-catching tableaus. With harsh and pummeling percussion- on numbers like Ghost of You- The Black Parade was a varied and action-packed collection. Royal Tusk make sure Mountain has its fair share of atmosphere, urgency and story- topped off with My Chemical Romance-esque anthemics, and you have a band that mean business. Dipping into interviews- conducted with Royal Tusk- there are some names that influenced their creative progress. Jeremy Fisher, Said the Whale and Lyle Lovett are the final three names I will draw in. Jeremy Fisher is a fellow Canadian songwriter- albums such as Goodbye Blue Monday were rife with quality songs. Rollicking shuffle, charm and charisma made songs like Jolene and Scar That Never Heals so fascinating and addictive. Lay Down‘s swaggering and confident chorus made it a standout song; stories about pining for home and comfort gives it a personal and emotive edge- it is a layered and multicoloured work of art. Royal Tusk install plenty of personal songs and relevant travelogues; their music has stunning confident and restrained moments- it is clear that their fellow countryman has had an affect. Lyle Lovett’s I Love Everybody offer change-ups and engaging stories; dour humour and deep emotions resonate in the songs- brought to life with stunning band performances. Whilst Royal Tusk employ the faintest hints of Lovett- when they go Country-field and Folk-orientated- his legacy comes out. Said the Whale are a prolific Canadian Indie-Rock/Indie-Folk band. When investigating their album Islands Disappear, you can see it had an effect on Royal Tusk. That album possesses natural landscapes- investigating the effect scenery has on the mindset. The band explore their environment; pine for various towns and getaways- take the listener inside their mind to somewhere special. Layering their songs with sing-along charm and quality, it is a deep, layered and rich album. Royal Tusk have a similarly evocative and scenic scope: their songs take your mind along with them; put pictures and images in the brain- have that same wistfulness and romantic side to their songs. Mountain sees numbers explore similar ventures- Royal Tusk has the ability to calm the senses and relax the hurried and stressed listener.

With all of this information on board; given what we know about the band’s inception (and background)- a lot of pressure must be on them. Shadow of Love is a rebirth and embryonic step: the world’s first taste of what Royal Tusk are all about. Anyone expecting something slow-building and passive are in for a surprise- the band ensure that you are hooked from the initial moments. A funky and springing step welcomes the track in. Fusing swirling moments of Americana; The Resistance-era Muse; some touches of Soul- the sapling seconds whip up plenty of potential and promise. Already hooked into the song, it carries you along with its gleefulness and insatiable beat. Dancing along to its brief- but beautiful- lead in, out hero approaches the microphone. The initial words paint at unease and heartache. Our frontman has done things he didn’t want to do- he should have listened to his friends; they said “lie to you.” The vocal is determined and impassioned; not prone to overdoing things, there is plenty of strength and resentment mingling with one another- whomever the culpable sweetheart is, she has caused a world of issues. Perhaps things are not so one-sided. My initial thoughts saw the girl at fault- it seems like our hero may be dropping the ball. He clearly is enamoured of the girl; realises mistakes have been made- perhaps his attention has been diffuse and wavering. Proclaiming he’ll make the dinner he never did; rectifying his transgressions- our man seems to be in honest and confessional mode. Doing what he was “never supposed to do” he has been running with the boys; prioritising his friends- ahead of his girl- it seems that some damage has been done. It is rare to find a song that casts blame on the author- ordinarily there is accusations and finger-pointing; not here. Desperate to make things right, our man is turning over a new leaf. The band nobly support their brother’s quest: the guitars swagger and grumble with Arctic Monkey-esque prowess; the mood is light but forceful- it is a perfect blend that means the words resonate and stick. Ensuring that his words hit the mark, the vocal increases and augments its urgency. Our hero’s mother has offered sagacious words; truth is the focal point of the song. Caught in a Catch-22 situation, something has been said- to his sweetheart- that has caused the riff: knowing he should never lie, perhaps our man has been TOO honest. Whether he has committed an indiscretion or been too open, I am not sure- it appears that he was following logic and truthfulness. Coming back around to bite him, the chorus offers up the most effusive and impassioned plea. Vocals unite; the band combine tightly- the insatiable and rushing delivery highlights the sense of pain and upheaval. Whatever has been said between the two; whatever truths have been unearthed, our hero just wants her back- deep down he is the same man that she fell in love with. Making sure rambunctious swing mandates their sounds; the band bolster and emphasise their roles- injecting plenty of force and momentum into proceedings. Scared of his shadow of love, the track mutates and jives: the guitars rampantly shift and contort; the bass guides the men forward- the percussion clatters with lustful abandon. Changing direction mid-line, the boys pull off an AM-esque track: subverting expectations and keeping the track endlessly fresh and alive. Arctic Monkeys solidified this on that album; kept everything vibrant, vital and dangerous- the Canadian quintet show a similar intelligence and adventurousness. Packed with plenty of sing-along might; emphatic fists-in-the-air quality, the song draws you in. Just as you are ready to submit yourself to a tidal wave of energy and force- the song dips back down. Our hero offers apology and reflection- he wonders whether it would have been best if they had never met. Causing his woman trouble, there is an air of sarcasm and insincerity: perhaps the other party is over-reacting and being too unrealistic. Our man has been honest and genuine; expending energy and time- she has got back what she put in. Perhaps not pulling her weight; not being committed- it is unsurprising she is dissatisfied and disgruntled. Putting her to rights, our hero wages war- he is not going to be seen as the victim in the piece. His apologies are premature: if he had of said sorry it would have been another lie- you get a great glimpse into a complete picture. It seems that both are being a little stubborn and guilty- it is probably best that the relationship has come to a natural end. Dizzying and tripping electronics bond with the guitar, percussion and bass- acting as a post-chorus parable, it rustles up plenty of renewed intrigue. Our hero comes across as a dominant and alpha figure: he is not going to back down or repent; all your initial summations are instantly contradicted and redefined. Combining elements of Muse’s latter-day work; Arctic Monkeys’ latest album; plenty of anthemics and atmosphere- you never lose interest at all. Before the 2:20 mark, a spiked and buzzing riff is unleashed- not too heavy or primal, it perfectly keeps the mood tense. Our frontman has an air of detachment and aloofness- he has done all he can and seems unwilling to break his back. Wonderfully sitting alongside the likes of The Black Key’s break-up gems- the songs heard on Turn Blue– our boys present their own take- one where sorrow does not dictate things. It is the charm and endless bonhomie that makes the track so distinct and buoyant: it never relents or seems willing to submit- ensuring every line and note gets the listener standing to attention; moving their feet in time. The song’s title acts as a ghost and curse: our man is still scared by his own shadow- his sweetheart should be similarly aware and cautious. Lacing the composition with so much catchiness, addictive sting and rousing strings work, the track never succumbs to the worst traits of the mainstream- that ready-for-radio sound that consists of humdrum and mediocre compositional values. It is the incredibly passionate and distinct contributions from the band- tied to their leader’s stirring vocal- that makes the song their own; ensures that it never escapes your mind. As we go into the final seconds, the boys are not done talking. The song title is elongated and stretched; the words punctuated and underlined- the band back it up with a rousing and unfaltering dedication to the subject matter. Providing the same kick as we found in the intro.; the last moments snarl and feast- the hungry mammoth has done with his victim.

I shall give plaudits to the band; for now, I will sum up the song. It is a rousing and stunning opening cut- from the Mountain E.P. I shall go into a little more depth- with regards to the individual numbers- but few E.P.s open with such clout and purpose. Drawing in elements of Ten Second Epic’s previous work; instilling a huge amount of new and fresh inspiration- and some hints of others acts- the band have unveiled a fully-rounded and deep song- one that stands up to repeated listens. One of the biggest problems with the mainstream is the musical Lazarus syndrome. A lot of critics call time on bands; their pulses have stopped beating- they are verbally declared dead. What happens is they come back- seemingly from the dead- and confound- either reuniting or providing unexpectedly good work. My point is, this declaration is made because their current output is so sub-par and ineffectual- sometimes it occurs right at the start of their careers. New bands have to ensure their very initial steps are as meaningful and potent as they can muster up- I have seen too many enter the scene with such a whimper; I am shocked they have an audience after such inexcusable sloppiness. Royal Tusk know how important first impressions are: with a rich musical heritage behind them, Shadow of Love is an authoritative, confident and taut track. Both moody and uplifting, it mixes so many different strands and colours into the melting pot- without compromising its ideals and working-class background. The band themselves make the song such a triumph. The vocal is completely convincing and gripping. Not owing too much to any other voices, the performance never loses its step and force- that urgency and compelling grasp are what makes the words so standout. The themes have been trodden before; few bands keeps you guessing and provide twists and turns- the band have not simply done what everyone else does; their unique testament should inspire other bands to write similar songs. The guitar work is emphatic and mesmeric throughout. When the solos arrive they are not too overbearing and cloying- injecting just the appropriate amount of drive and weight, they provide some of the most memorable moments. Although there are touches of Arctic Monkeys- and by extension, Queens of the Stone Age- luster and sound; the band do not simply rebrand it and copycat- their sound is very much their own. During the choruses, the strings provide ample and impressive backing; the bass work is tremendous and strong- it keeps everything authoritative and determined. Never letting the foreground run away and become too overladen, they offer restraint and discipline- whilst ensuring lyrical and melodic invention comes out. Drumming on the track is stout and stern- passionate and raw, it makes sure the song never drops its head (or gets out of your mind). In the same way the likes of Foo Fighters can unleash band-orientated smashes- here Royal Tusk have carved a stunning and vibrant song. The perfect start to their E.P., it ensures listening ears investigate everything they have to offer.

Throughout Mountain, you are given something new and surprising. Engine starts tenderly and emotional- our frontman lets his smooth and impassioned voice implore. Needing to get away and escape, he hits the road and escapes a bad situation. Never more sure of things, the song pops and sparkles: the composition starts sparse and effective- it bursts to life in the chorus. Displaying the most fervent and wracked vocal performance, the hero rallies against his girl- she will never know what she lost; get what she thinks she should have. The rage and anger pours with venom- you believe every word that is uttered. Throwing in some melody and light, the song rises and falls- the energy levels never rest at all. When the story moves forward, our hero is surrounded by bottles, alcohol and girls- he has broken away from the shackles of a relationship; found himself somewhere more freeing. This is his rebellion and emancipation. Smoke Rings begins with a catchy and spirited cry. Giving him what he needs (whatever that refers to), our hero lets his voice shine- mixing whispered falsetto with crackling roars, it is a terrific performance. The song looks at a flighty and unreliable subject- someone who likes to “come and go.” Whether causing annoyance and unrest- or just taken as red- the heroine is never around. Our man seems to have given up caring. Backed by a focused and strong composition, it is one of the E.P.’s most immediate and urgent songs. The Letter is more emotive and tender. Looking at a letter- that was written a while back- our man never sent it. In his drawer- having been through the wash- there is hesitation and nerves. Not having mailed the letter, our hero looks back on events- he was dreaming; not having said what he should have, events have turned how they have. It has its heart and soul in a romantic comedy: the will-they-wont-they scenarios; the recriminations and regrets; the sense of mystery too. Whether the two have separated and cannot come back; dedication and tribute is paid- the other party always had his back (when things got hard and other started to doubt). Possessing the most ambitious and fascinating composition, there are spacey and trippy electronics (and layered vocals)- that sense of importance and grandeur comes through sharply. Years Ago has Americana and Blues tones. Softer and more measured, it hits you with its initial sway. The song sees our man try to forget about a love; push the memories aside- our hero wants to love again but is scared that things will break. Complex and mobile, the composition adds a lot of energy and intrigue- the band have found great inspiration in this song. Wondering whether he can love and move on, there is determination and focus- our hero has not given up on things. Jesus Saves is a stunning closing statement. After its catchy and cool-as-hell lead-in- where funky guitars and bubbling electronics are tempted- the vocal is forceful and direct. Jesus will not save our man; the impure thoughts in his mind cannot be cleansed. Not worrying about consequences, the hero is looking for answers and directions- he has lost his soul and been torn up. Letting his girl go, you feel like things will not repair- we see the heroine running after the bad boys. Imbued with the catchiest and most foot-stomping kick, the song is insanely memorable- a definite festival gem-in-waiting. Mixing the sunniness of Pop; the grit and force of Indie and Alternative- with some Soul undertones- it is a wonderful concoction. The track superbly ends the E.P.- making the listener yearn for more. With every new review, I am afforded the opportunity to witness something fresh- music that a lot of people have not heard, We in the U.K. are seeing Canadian acts filtered through gradually- it is a shame that there is such a clog in the pipes. I know the media is keen to proclaim and promote homegrown acts; it seems that eyes are a bit short-sighted- it is incongruous and foolhardy to ignore such terrific music. Having surveyed the likes of The Tallest Tree and City and the Sea, I am being afforded first-hand opportunity to see some of the world’s most fascinating acts progress. Royal Tusk are a band that have really peaked my interest: it has been a long while since I have heard their particular brand of music. So many acts go straight for the bones: lace their music with heaviness and anthemic qualities- negating the importance of surprise and difference. With so many like-minded artists coming through, the greatest patronage will be paid to those that stand apart- the Canadian quintet have deftly and intelligently side-stepped musical pratfalls and pits. It will be interesting to see what they offer next year: if they will sojourn in the studio for another record- or take their music as far and wide as they can. I hope they can balance the two- it would be great to see Royal Tusk come over to the U.K. and give us an earful. Songs like Shadow of Love do not come around that often- E.P.s with Mountain‘s peaks are a rarity indeed. When these types of events do come along, it is vital we do not let them remain in the shadows and crumble to the sea- encourage them to flourish in the light (and consecrate their stature). For all the po-faced and uber-serious bands out there- they could learn a lot from the rugged and charming Royal Tusk. Not gravitated around a preening and pretentious figurehead, they are a galvanised collective: a pure musical force that are as weighty and dangerous as their name suggests. Before I leave you all, I will circle back to my original thesis: that interview with Wild Beasts. Although Hayden Thorpe’s crew are among the most inventive and stunning bands in the world, it is the truths and facts they expound that resonate hard- how many new acts do you see that stick long in the mind? Most of my review subjects have stuck with me; few mainstream acts deeply impress me- the occasional band have sufficient gravity and arsenal to do some talking. The real treats are going to (the acts and artists) poking from the underground quarters of new music- this is where the finest examples are shining. Hayden Thorpe stated- in the interview- how the choice of music- the sheer collection of historical sounds- is off-putting and daunting. He explained it in these terms: “It’s a huge privilege to make music now with such resources at hand, but equally it can be a weight.” I shouldn’t think the mighty Royal Tusk are intimidated by weight…

THEY are a mammoth, after all.

 

About the Author:

https://musicmusingsandsuch.wordpress.com/about/

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Follow Royal Tusk:

Official: 

http://royaltusk.com/

 Facebook: 

https://www.facebook.com/royaltusk

Twitter: 

Last F.M.: 

http://www.last.fm/music/Royal+Tusk

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Royal Tusk gig dates available via:

http://www.songkick.com/artists/8124918

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Royal Tusk’s music can be purchased here:

https://itunes.apple.com/ca/artist/royal-tusk/id878060298

Track Review: City and the Sea- Venture

 

 TRACK REVIEW:

City and the Sea

 

 

Venture

9.2/10.0

Venture is available from:

RELEASED:

15 July 2014

WRITTEN BY:

City and The Sea

PRODUCED BY:

Carl Jennings

MIXED BY:

Carl Jennings

RECORDED AND MIXED AT:

Westmoreland Studio, Hamilton

MASTERED BY:

Brian Lucey at Magic Garden Mastering

LABEL:

Red Coast Records

GENRES:

Alternative, Hard-Rock

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Inspired by the likes of Jimmy Eat World and Foo Fighters; City and the Sea are one of Canada’s most intriguing acts. Having been recording for a number of years, they present one of their most impressive and emphatic songs: Venture is a fresh and fists-in-the-air swagger- determined to rouse frenzy and impassioned support

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AS I subjected my blog to a bit of a revamp and overhaul…

it got my thinking about a number of different things. The first consideration- that bubbled about my brain- was musical reinvention and discovery. When you look out at the new musicians muscling forth, there is a lot of ambition coming out: acts are determined to inject life and renewal into various genres of music. Electro.-Pop acts are revitalising and redefining rather staid and placid sounds; Grunge artists are infusing their music with something compelling, complex and cross-pollinated; Soul stars are stirring in bits of Blues and Jazz-Rock- it seems that the new generation are determined to make their mark. It is impressive that this is being done: so many musicians come across as unadventurous and boring; it is nice to hear artists that take the trouble to do something unique and unexpected. Genres such as Pop and Soul are- in my view at least- a little easier to transform and diversify: the likes of Rock, Alternative and Indie are much harder (to do anything with). Over the last week- and the week coming- my attentions are going to be focused upon Indie and Hard-Rock avenues: assessing bands that prefer their output to err towards the heavier side of things- fitting into a marketplace that is crowded and competitive. A lot of music-lovers and commentators are keen to overstate the situation of current music: a great deal are claiming that innovation and ambition is seeping out by the month; the new crop coming through are not putting their heart, brain and soul into music- some acts definitely are culpable of this. What I find is that the sense of wonder and experimentation is high and fervent- the sapling artists are as original and unique as anything I have heard. Of course, you do get a lot of samey and stolid acts; for the most part, new musicians are taking the time to do things right- provide the listener with an experience that is compelling, colourful and distinct. My featured act is an Alternative/Hard-Rock act; yet dare to be that much more bold and different: if you have any predetermined- and prerequisite- thoughts, then feel free to abandon them- the guys are not your workaday and average band. Possessed of a cool, quirky and unique personality; the group provide melody and nuance; peace and light- among a tantalising whirlpool of sonic innovation and force. One of my biggest gripes- when it comes to music in general- is the homogenisation of sounds: so few mainstream acts really resonate and stick in the imagination. I am not sure whether it is because of the mass numbers; the sheer pressure that is put (onto musicians)- or something else- but some form of revolution needs to be undertaken- the hungry clan of unsigned and new acts are waiting to pounce and spring. I would expect to see something happen into 2015: the best and most stirring newbies are likely to gain some form of foothold; start to make their way into critical minds- begin the shift into the mainstream. Before I continue on this point- and raise another one- I shall introduce my featured act:

Nick Cino– Lead Vocals, Guitar

Jon Daly– Lead Guitar

Dave Marini– Bass

Joe Piccolo– Drums

City and The Sea are well aware that their name spells out the acronym CATS, and they’re cool with that. Cats are nimble and instinctive creatures who are ready to pounce on their next prey. City and The Sea is a melodic rock band from Hamilton, Ontario. None of them currently own any cats. Some say the band was abducted by aliens many years ago, shown the ways of interstellar space travel and given the gift of great songwriting. Others say they unearthed an ancient tomb where they discovered the magic of rock ‘n’ roll. The more believable story is that the members of the band have spent countless hours writing great melodies mixed with hard rock guitars and have played show after show singing them to audiences. Their sound has been compared to the Foo Fighters, Jimmy Eat World, and Smashing Pumpkins. Hell bent on bringing real rock ‘n’ roll back from the brink, City and The Sea is a force of nature. Lead singer Nick Cino is equal parts Dave Grohl and Chris Robinson, projecting a melodic and strong vocal style usually hidden behind a mane of hair. Jon Daly is the boy wonder on lead guitar – honoring the indie styling of St. Vincent mixed with the riffs of Led Zeppelin, never going on stage without a pair of Chuck Taylors on. Dave Marini is the magic man on bass, born a Leo, and founder of the International Bass Academy of Awesomeness. And behind the skins is the man with the mohawk, Joe Piccolo, the hardest hitting drummer in the Hammer, channeling the ability and dynamics of John Bonham. “Venture/Trouble” – the new double A-Side from City and The Sea is more of a mission statement than a pair of songs. “Venture” is the stadium-ready rocker, kicking off with a distorted riff before breaking into a chorus even Noel Gallagher wished he’d written. “Trouble” is the pop song, the ass-shaker, already becoming a live favourite. Both songs showcase the band’s ability to write incredibly catchy tunes with heart and a quick punch to the gut. The guitars are loud but the harmonies are sweet. The new single comes off the success of the ACTION FIGURES EP, released in 2013. The EP spawned two singles “Strange Feeling” and “Living It Up”. City and The Sea hit the scene in 2010 with “Leave A Light On”. That EP’s first single “Fool’s Union” received airplay on MuchMusic and MuchLoud. The last few years have been a whirlwind of activity: tours of Europe and Canada, showcases in New York City, opening slots for Wide Mouth Mason, Die Mannequin, The Reason and Rusty; a featured slot at Supercrawl 2013, sharing the bill with the likes of Passion Pit, Joel Plaskett Emergency and Fucked Up. Airplay on college and commercial FM stations across Canada (Rock 95 – Barrie/Y108 – Hamilton/FM96 – London/K-Rock – Kingston/The Wolf – Regina/The Bridge – Nelson/Mountain FM – Whistler). Kids are catching on to their fun and high energy stage show, these guys don’t fool around in the rock ‘n’ roll department. CITY AND THE SEA are ready to believe you!”

Aside from a lack of mobility, one thing that annoys me about music- sounding like an old man here!- is the cessation and dissipation of personality and identity. So many artists- predominantly in the mainstream- do not come across as personable or inspirational. Contented to stick their heads down and do the bare-minimum, the masses are determined to avoid the lure of capturing hearts- preferring their music to do all of the talking. I understand music is not a beauty pageant; yet connecting with a musician on a personal plain is as important as connecting with their music- the artists that understand this are proving to be most popular. My favourite new musicians are those that have big hearts and keen smiles: they take the trouble to chat with you and open up; reveal a little something about what makes them tick- illuminate their inner-most thoughts and secrets. Without giving too much away, you can gain a lot to fans- provide something deep and desired; you do not need to strip yourself naked and pour blood everywhere. A lot of mainstream acts are plastic and faceless: committed to secrecy and scant revelation, they are one-dimensional and flat- struggling to truly inspire wannabe musicians and fans. City and the Sea are one of Canada’s most charming and interesting new acts- defined by their fun and alive stage shows, their music is a comparable feast of festival, scintillation and effusiveness. Not content to sit on the sidelines, the band embrace the listener- bring them into the music and try to get them fully on board. Not compromising their ideals and direction, the clan is equally eye-catching and unexpected- they are an act that we need to see more of. I wonder how they will fare into the next year: whether the Canadians can transverse the oceans and find their way to the U.K.- they have toured Europe before and built up a solid reputation. City and the Sea’s music differs greatly from what we have- over in Britain- and is sure to resonate and fascinate fans here- let’s hope social media and music websites understand this; proffer the band’s multicoloured and gleaming luster. Having had a busy and adventurous career, the quartet are making their new moves- Venture is a fresh and stunning cut that could well make its way onto a future E.P. (or album). I have not questioned the band- with regards to future releases- but it seems that we’ll be seeing something sooner rather than later- a fresh chapter from a vibrant and ubiquitous band. My attentions and heart are going to be residing in Canada for the next week- it seems I am quite popular here- and assessing various acts across the nation. For now, Steeltown’s brave and bold four-piece are putting Hamilton- and Canada- on the map; inspiring minds and offering ubiquitous and universal sounds- music that cannot fail to seduce the most cynical of listeners.

Looking at Venture, you can see a clear development from the band. The group’s first E.P. arrived in 2008. Entitled Long Time Comin’ the record was a stunning and memorable debut. A Little Bit of Soul has organs and Soul-inspired dance- it implores you to move your feet and jam along. Questioning whether he is right or wrong, our frontman is questioning himself- it mixes deep and introspective themes with full and lush music. Some Revolution has parts of Dylan’s 1965 output: joining Highway 61 Revisited and its electronic swirls, it is a Blues-Rock riot. Blonde on Blonde’s gorgeous and deep compositional elements come into play. The track boasts gorgeous and romantic vocals; against a track that sees revolution coming, our man is down in New Orleans- the song is deep with stunning imagery and exciting story. I Tried So Hard has gentle and romantic sides; our hero does not want to be separated from his love- sweeping and grand emotions seep through. The band’s embryonic cut is a packed and multifarious collection: covering so much ground, it also cements a unique and individual sound- one that differs from the regurgitated and obvious sounds of the mainstream. Two years later, the band unveiled Leave A Light On– another E.P. that contained more than its fair share of gems. Fool’s Union begins with a fade-in: Country-esque tones mutate into crunching and harder riffs- chanting and bolstered vocals give the song an instant rush. Buzzing and chainsaw guitars are foot-stomping and anthemic. Our hero is feeling like a fool; being taken advantage of- there is an angry and determined drive in the vocal. The title track is spacey and trippy- in the opening few seconds- before enclosing itself. Introverted and calmed, subjects look at loneliness and detachment. Some people- according to the hero- are half-alive; some not so- the images and avenues are vivid and scenic. Gimme Back My Soul sees City and the Sea usher up a sing-along and rousing coda: a song destined for open highways and sun-touched cities. Embers of the like of Black Crowes and Foo Fighters mix to inspire one of the band’s most direct and uplifting songs. The two years saw the band develop and expand their sound. They retain their softer and more melodic centre; expanding it, harder and more vibrant jams are unfurled- they develop their Hard-Rock side and seem more fully-rounded and complete. Sounding tighter, more confident and urgent, the band stepped up a gear; instilled more lust and passion into their music- drawing in new fans and listeners. Strange Feeling was their 2012 single- it later appeared on their Action Figures E.P. The song builds and teases before unveiling a raptured and Indie-esque sound. Parts of Oasis’ 1994/5 period comes to light; that stature, determination and anthemic pride is showcased- it moves your feet and inspires you to pump your fists. Looking at bloody scenes and the issues of being controlled, there is paranoia and nervy utterances- one of the band’s most invigorating and complete songs, it is a startling cut. The aforementioned E.P. arrived a year later. Footprints is teasing and contorting- a hard and determined beast. Living It Up has Foo Fighter moments- their softer side- that draws in the band’s early work. Our hero’s eyes are faded; not belonging and feeling alone, he is rallying against the world. Showing sensitivity and recrimination, the song is a rousing and emotional number- one that perfectly marries soft and tender with bolstered and inflamed. How Do You Do? sees Radiohead-esque guitar strings introduce some stillness and ethereal longing. Demonstrating their affection for Black Crowes, a deep and resonant song is unfolded. Looking back at relationships and love; the hardness and proclivity of a bond- our hero is in full voice. The composition stutters and is juggernaut; sweet vocal harmonies add some beauty and touching heart. One of the most diverse and full songs, the band once more layer their ambitions and focus. Having stepped on from their 2008 output, City and the Sea showcase renewed inspiration- solidifying that perfect blend of quiet and loud dynamics. The E.P. brought in new supporters; built the band’s reputation for surprising and invigorating musicianship and mood- their lyrics are more varied and tight. The performances are equally tight and in-tune: the band solidify and galvanise their majesty; everything became more astonishing and fresh. Venture builds once more: showing the flair and energy of Strange Feeling and How Do You Do? the track is the heaviest and more primal band offering- softer and elliptical stages are in the mix too. The strength and passion shown- in Venture– could parlay into a fully-fledged album or E.P.- such is the momentum and quality of the song, it is sure to snowball. Having been recording for over six years, City and the Sea have improved and strengthened their sound- each new release shows something new and unexpected. It will be fascinating to see where they go from here: whether they retain this core sound or go in another direction. Such is the mobility and sense of adventure, the band are restless and unstoppable- they have plenty in their arsenal to achieve great results. In all of their work comes a mixture of U.S. Driving-Rock, Alternative maturity and youthful Hard-Rock and Indie- few acts offer this myriad of different contours and blends.

If you are looking around for other acts- that could have inspired City and the Sea, then I can offer a few names. One of the most distinct bands- I can compare with our quartet- is Jimmy Eat World. The legendary Arizona band have been impressing critics since their debut (the 1994 self-titled cut). If I were to draw parallels to one particular album, it would be Bleed American. Perhaps their peak achievement; it sees driving guitar work and catchy melodies seduce the senses. The L.P. saw spacey Emo work alongside straight-to-the-point Punk and Rock ‘n’ Roll. Able to seamlessly and naturally blend- such disparate genres- the resultant album is a stunning work of fluidity and precision. Showing a love of impassioned and gorgeous backing vocals; it is tied with urgent and vintage guitar sounds. Toying and playing with lyrical themes- borrowing from other songs into the process- the U.S. monsters created a work that inspired a legion of new rockers. City and the Sea mix understated and majestic beauty with primal and gravelled swagger- you could see Venture easily nestling near the top of Bleed American. Jimmy Eat World showed new colours during Futures– the follow-up to Bleed American. On this album, the diamond-like and layered guitars were buttressed with sweet vocal harmonies and pummeling drums. The album infused atmospheric and symphonic mixtures with intense and heart-warming vocals. Jim Adkins’ unique and emotive performances made the album such a stand-out work- Nick Cino has a comparatively deep and compelling set of pipes. Jimmy Eat World’s most recent offerings see a lyrical and mature approach: they present gut-punch break-up songs around lush and full-bodied compositions- the band hark to their pasts and pull some treasure out of the trove. City and the Sea instill that inimitable fusion of maturity reflection and youthful rambunctiousness- the tantalising rushes and sensitive diary entries work wonderfully together. So few modern bands are influenced by Jimmy Eat World: they remain one of the most underrated and inspiring bands working today. Another name I can give you is Foo Fighters. I mentioned this act- when reviewing Monkey Punch Radio (a U.K.-based Indie band) and stated how they managed to evolve Grohl’s stomping stadium rockers- into their own stunning songs. City and the Sea have a shared love of the U.S. warriors. In addition to being able to pen some nuanced and addictive swaggers, they go deeper down- able to offer the listener so much more. If I were to compare the band’s past work- and Venture– with a Foo Fighters album; it would probably be There is Nothing Left To Lose. This album marked a departure for the band- on a side note: the legends also formed in 1994- who before had favoured pace and energy over melody. Grohl’s voice is more developed and professional- he comes across as a bona fide singer rather than a screaming Grunge persuader. The sense of unity, focus and togetherness defined the album- Foo Fighters turned out their most complete and hard-rocking disc to date. The sense of fun mandates a lot of numbers; the band sound like they are having fun at every moment- there is no sense of fatigue or disinterest. Songs like Breakout parabond melody and epic definitions- it is a song that sticks in your head forever. Modern-day Foo’ (or 2011 anyway) sees positively-charged and back-to-basics tracks getting the messages across- that vitality and urgency is hard to shake off. Redefining their gift for soaring choruses, Foo Fighters made sure each song- on Wasting Light– hits the listener- you repeat songs over and over. City and the Sea include plenty of winning (and vote-seeking) chorus work: their ability to rouse the soul surely finds some D.N.A. in Foo Fighters’ impressive body of work. The songs on Wasting Light are written to give each band member breathing room- they are not a showcase for Grohl’s wracked vocal. City and the Sea have a similarly considerate and thoughtful creative process: their music allows the band to flourish as a unit- rather than revolve around vocal and guitars. If you are looking for British influence, then you can hear embers of Oasis– certainly in City and the Sea’s most up-to-date output. The father figures of many current Indie bands, I was impressed to see some of the Mancunian legends make their way to Canada. Understandably a huge and influential band, I did not foresee shades of (What’s the Story) Morning Glory? find its way into the quartet’s work. That album –(What’s)’– was released in 1995- City and the Sea have a fond affection for mid-’90s music; the finest period in music history. There are no laddish histrionics within City and Sea’s ranks; they have plenty of tension and fight- it is witnessed in the pages of their music, rather than the seedy underbelly of the tabloid press. Oasis’ early-career masterpiece have populist and universal appeal- the simplicity of tracks like Roll with It and Some Might Say are designed to be chanted by eager festival crowds. When Noel Gallagher put his heart on his sleeve- Wonderwall and Don’t Look Back in Anger– he managed to rustle up a riot of passion and emotion; keep the riffs and compositions huge and delirious- ensure that the listener sang along rather than wept into their coffees. Liam Gallagher’s textured and developed vocals made the songs come to life; Noel Gallagher’s borderline-plagiaristic riffs created familiarity- the ensuing seduction overwhelmed critics. City and the Sea possess far more originality- in addition to a huge vocal clout- ensuring their work is very much their own. The final influential source I will mention is The Black Crowes. Two relevant albums- from The Black Crowes- I can draw to City and the Sea is By Your Side and Amorica. The latter is their 1994 high-point- that year keeps coming home to roost- and was critically-lauded. The Black Crowes offered their most impressive set of songs- to this point- seeing Blues-Rock jams sprawl and captivate; investigating the glory days of Rock they transform bygone masters around their own ideals- keeping the songs original and fresh. Able to join the likes of Led Zeppelin and the Rolling Stones- around offbeat and multicultural beats- The Black Crowes unleashed an album of startling ambition. By Your Side– released in 1999- witnessed the band having good dirty fun: they draw in all of their influences and ensure that the L.P. is stuffed full of focused and nuanced nuggets. The basic and uncluttered songs have concision and precision- you can tell that the band rehearsed the songs a lot to make sure they sounded authoritative and genuine. The plaintive and emotive vocals lift the songs to new heights: the entire band are as in tune and compelling as their early days. City and the Sea draw a line through these two albums- adding their own personality into proceedings. Able to elicit the same sort of straightforward and uncomplicated rockers on By Your Side; they also have a knack for making sure the vocal performances are direct and captivating- at one moment aching and tender; the next emotive and emphatic. City and the Sea have moments of experimentation and freewheelin’ ambition- some of their songs take in Blues-Rock sprawls and Progressive-Rock parables. Actually, before I go, I will mention one more band: Radiohead. When the quartet offer some soft and spectral guitar strings, I was put in mind of The Bends-era Radiohead. Again- having been formed in the mid-’90s- the seminal album clearly affected the Canadians- some of their early work has a very Bends-esque quality to them. When Cino’s voice soars to falsetto delicacy, I detect signs of Thom Yorke: that same choir-like innocence is beautiful to behold. When The Bends rocked-out- the title track, My Iron Lung and Just are the best examples- you can see some influence within City and the Sea’s work. Capable of summoning up an inimitable distillation of chest-beating lad culture with angst-ridden desperation, the Canadians neatly parlay it into their work. Although City and the Sea are hugely influenced by ’90s bands- the 1994/5 period seems particularly relevant- they have a lot of modern-day urgency and extrapolations. Use my comparisons as a starting-point: what you get from the Hamilton band is something distinct and special. If you have an affection for ‘Britpop’-era legends; ’90s U.S. Rock stalwarts (and of-the-moment Hard-Rock brilliance), City and the Sea are a great band to behold- they expertly mingle these variable elements around a striking and incomparable freshness and uniqueness.

Venture wastes no time in making its presence felt. A swirling and determined riff gives the track an instant kick. Mixing the likes of Foo Fighters, Muse and Queens of the Stone Age- into a boiling pot of electric intrigue- you are hooked. Swinging, swaggering and shouting, the intro. sets a very vivid scene. Before long; percussion joins in the fight: pattering and pulverizing, it builds the tension and sense of atmosphere- leading to a mazy and tripping coda. With guitar snaking and yelping, the percussion becomes bolder and fuller- the loucheness and unbridled dance gives the initial seconds a dizzying charm. The band lay in as much sonic curiosity as they can- in these moments- ensuring that they crank the volume all the way up- you wonder just what can follow the delirious and intolerant sapling salvo. Our hero steps to the mic. with fervent intent- he is hitting the highway and determined to get away. Pounding down a lonely road, you are gripped by some initial offerings. Speaking to an unnamed figure, our frontman claims that he does not need “your forgiveness.” Whether a relationship has broken down- and one of the parties has caused the cessation; or an argument has broken out between friends- I am not so sure. The determination and urgency in the voice enforces the words and ramified them. Our man claims that he- and his subject- are growing old. Having been burnt by the lies- that have been told- my interest and curiosity augmented- speculating whether he was running from his sweetheart; scenes and images began to circulate my mind like a centrifuge. Soon, it is said, they will find out what they “are living for“- an ultimatum and judgement day is upon them. The composition remains taut and muscular in the initial phase- it has plenty of oomph, yet never overpowers and recklessly wanders. The bass propels the momentum forwards; keeps the strands together and ensures discipline and force. With a catchy and insatiably passionate riff, the electrification of the song promulgates the lyrics- delivered with conviction and sheer direction. Backed by rushing and bolstering waves of percussion, the band are tight and completely in step- unleashing a venomous and lustful performance. As the chorus approaches, our hero states that the “sun keeps rising all over town“: his voice employs a measure of desperation and anxiety; that wracked delivery leads me to believe that he is pining for something- a hole is evident in his life. As the song progresses, the infectiousness and indelibility begins to grow. Living life and carrying on, things are just not the same- as the words are delivered, cooing and atmospheric backing vocals are tempted in. Uniting elements of Foo Fighters’ incredible passion (and fists-in-the-air chorus); Black Crowes’ ability for memorability and lyrical fascination, the story progresses- more and more I am sure that a relationship has ceased existence. Perhaps blame can not be readily ascribed; the circumstances behind the fracture is unknown- whatever has happened, our hero is feeling the emptiness and burden of loneliness. Life and scenes are not as they should be; a gaping valley has been left in his heart- you feel as though all purpose and relevance has been sucked out (of his life). When testifying (as to his) situation; our frontman highlights the futility of his situation- everything he is living for has gone. With that sense of purposefulness now eradicated, the band step up to the mark- the ensuing compositional mandate is rife with tension, passion and renewed urgency. The guitars weave and dizzily trip; frantically portrayed, the listener has their brain whipped into a frenzied mush- supported by an ample percussion clatter and authoritative bass; it is a verse break designed to keep fascination high. Hooked by our hero’s plight, he finds himself travelling down “a lonely road.” In spite of the fact he is riding solo- and probably been in this situation a few times previously- there seems to be an air of resilience and stoutness. Not needing- or willing to wait for- forgiveness; our hero is going to go his own way. Because of the sheer energy and impassioned drive of the vocal, you feel as though our frontman is not too heartbroken- there is pain for sure; the abiding sensation is one of determination and moving on. The song’s title could signal a new adventure: something that needs to be obtained and realised. After the subsidence of relations, you would expect some wallowing and woe-is-me outpouring- Venture seems to promote against-the-odds bravery and rebirth. With every sunrise, we are told what we’re living for; the meaning and true purpose behind each day- dispensation is provided and guidance offered. Throughout the track there are mixed emotions and sentiments- an underlying ambiguity and obliqueness that keeps the song fresh and tantalising. Not giving too much information away, the listener is left to speculate the back-story- what has happened and started the course of events. My interpretation still revolves around a huge argument: lovers split by an eventful fall-out; both going different directions. Our hero is re-appropriating his life; balancing things up and trying to find the meaning behind it all. The mixture of angst-laden and overwrought pain blends with strengthened and natural focus. Having surveyed the scenes and assessed the situation, our man is “home alone“- trying to make sense of what has happened and how life has evolved. Supported by his band members, a whirlpool of hypnotising sonics are elicited- towards the final stages, the fury and determination grows ever more. With the guitar particularly prevalent, a spiraling and frantic outro. takes form- it has all the clout and conviction of the hardest-hitting songs. With thoughts still conspiring; a lingering curiosity failing to relent, the song comes to its end- Venture has concluded its insatiable attack.

Before I focus upon the band members- and pass out praise- it is worth giving impressions about Venture. Everything feels tight, controlled and focused throughout. Clocking it at just over three-and-a-half minutes, it never outstays its welcome or is needlessly bloated- everything is said and wrapped-up perfectly. The themes of loss, dislocation and uncertainty are not new subjects- the band are never going to break new lyrical ground. The way their version of events is presented gives Venture a sense of originality and distinction. Words mix byzantine and oblique; direct and to-the-point; simple and effective- the story moves forward and you are caught up in the drama and speculation (that is provided). Showing a sense of uniqueness and personality, the song does not come off as copycat or overly-predictable. In spite of the striking flair of the track, the band manage to incorporate small elements of other bands. I can hear some of Foo Fighters’ anthemic and stadium-sized fist-pumps (within Venture). The way the U.S. giants are able to get fans bouncing and chanting can be detected here- you would imagine Grohl using Venture as one of Foo Fighters’ opening tracks (on a new album). That is not to say the song is a too close for comfort- far from it in fact! The opaqueness of the sounds puts it directly in City and the Sea’s camp- the band skillfully incorporate embers of other acts; wrapping it around their assured and unique voice. Drawing in the mesmeric moments of Muse, Jimmy Eat World and Oasis; the band has managed to create a layered and fascinating number. It seems designed for the festival scenes and summertime parties: hugely powerful and urgent, it is the sort of song that is meant to get the feet moving- voice fully-charged in unison. City and the Sea will be unveiling another song soon- Venture forms one half of a double A-side. I will be interested to see what they partner their latest cut with- just what direction they will go. Their past work has shown how mobile and diverse they are: capable of taking their music in all kinds of unexpected places, ears will be primed and curious. Their last full-bodied work was released last year; I suspect that the band are going to be eager to put another E.P. out- the conviction and sense of ambition here (will surely compel the boys to put down some more tracks). Venture has hallmarks of their early work- the rush and grit of their hardest numbers- but introduces new themes and avenues; the sense of confident and conviction is at its peak- the overall performance is tighter and stronger than I have ever heard. Having picked apart all of their previous tracks, there is development and progress here- the Canadian quartet sound more determined and purposeful than at any point of their career. There are a lot of Hard-Rock and Indie bands presenting the same sort of themes; drawing in similar influences and idols- projecting songs that tread the same ground. It is inevitable that Venture will have siblings and classmates- the way the band go about their business differentiate themselves from the majority of their peers and contemporaries. Nick Cino has a voice that spares no prisoners: when at its most insistent, it is a potent and powerful thing indeed- full of body and passion, it makes sure that his words are not ignored. Possessing a great and full emotional range, he is capable of mixing tenderness and stillness with full-bodied assault; seamlessly switching mid-verse- in order to keep the songs fresh and unexpected. Most singers mumble and over-project their words; leave the listener a little dazed and overpowered- on Venture, he takes the time to make sure everything is clear and easily understood. Displaying an innate and passionate performance, you are hooked in (due to the power of that voice)- its ability to enforce every word (and make the listener root for him). The track contains its share of ambiguity and openness- the mixture of emotions and feelings give the track intelligence and simplicity. Blending his guitar perfectly into the mix, Cino showcases his flair and passion for the instrument- his contributions inject plenty of magic. Jon Daly mesmerises and intrigues with his guitar work: able to transform it from a recoiling viper into an insatiable hunter, it is an impressive performance. Focus and fluidity come out- Daly never allows his guitar to wander off or aimlessly implore. Summoning up plenty of power and movement, it drives the song forward; throws colour and passion into the track- without needing to wail and scream like a stroppy teenager. Dave Marini is the fatherly figure that keeps Venture taut and lean. His bass has plenty of melody, lyricism and mobility to it- the most impressive thing about it is its range. Changing from snaking and slithering, to forceful and pressing; Marini keeps things fresh and unpredictable. Joe Piccolo’s percussion strength gives Venture a huge amount of potency and swagger. When the lyrics are inflamed and urgent, Piccolo meets the challenge at hand- presenting plenty of support and rampancy. Clattering the one moment; calmed and levelled the next, the drum work is uniformly impressive and assured.

I said in the intro; Canada is going to be with me for a week or so more- the country is turning out stunning acts at an unparalleled rate. Not only is it giving reviewers (like me) the opportunity to be itinerant and inspired; Canada’s mass outpouring is influencing musicians in the U.K.- I have heard of artists here that are taking note of what is happening over there. One of the problems we face here- with regards to new music- is that it is relegated to the pages of social media and music blogs- the mainstream media has limited time and space available. Given the soaring and unregulated rise of new musicians, a lot of great talent are having to fight hard- work tirelessly for years to get the meekest and most meagre forms of appreciation. In lieu of any short-term fix, the most important thing we can do- the listening public- is to expand our minds; proffer the most worthy and distinct musicians; keep them at the peak of our mind- whilst allowing our eyes and ears to wander around the globe. It sounds like a daunting task, yet is brings huge rewards and pleasures- I wonder what I would have missed out on, were it not because of my journalistic contacts. The acts that are deserving of the greatest market share are those that touch the listener in a number of different ways- not just content to put music out and say nothing more. City and the Sea have a clear and defined personality; they are an act that want to embrace and befriend their fans- in addition to mesmerising with their fun and colourful stage shows. It is no surprise they have seduced and enthralled their native country; I just hope that they bring some of their magic across the ocean to us here- I can foresee no outcome where the residences of London are not completely spellbound and hooked-in. Venture is a step away from some of their earlier work; a brave and evolutionary step- that shows just how far the band have come. Retaining their unique and distinct sound, the quartet have augmented and solidified their incredible talents. This bodes well for the future: a forthcoming release is sure to provide similarly confounding gems of sound- keep your peepers trained to the shores of Hamilton. Before I depart, I want to wrap up one final point: reinvention. What I have found- when redesigning my blog and pages- is that you have so much more scope and potential: just the slightest of tweaks can lead to fresh and prosperous avenues; expansion and unmitigated joy- it all begins with that desire and goal. So many musicians display a timidity and cloying lack of testicular fortitude; that part of the brain that wants to be distinct- it is always pleasing when acts come through who rebel against the maelstrom of the mainstream. Sure to see their stock rise and burgeon, the Canadian Hard-Rock/Alternative band are a new name to my thoughts- an act that I will be following closely in the future. Having sought out and listened to their body- of past work- I can see just how diverse and exciting they are- able to develop and mutate their sound without losing their distinct personality. New music will thrive- if bands like City and Sea keep making cosmopolitan waves- and grow; inspire new legions coming through- ensure that you seek out the stunning quartet. There is not a lot more for me to say- you’ll be relieved to know- apart from one thing. Having investigated Venture, it strikes me with its mixture of beauty and epic-ness; the range of sounds and harder moments- that urgency and alertness. If it were a movie, it would be Casablanca: it has that strange and wonderful mingling of layers, nuances and standout moments- a sweeping piece that packs a serious punch. Allowing myself to drift into third-person narrative; quote a famous line- that was never uttered in Casablanca itself- and speak investigate a familiar Venture; I am saying only one thing:

PLAY it again, Sam.

 

About the Author:

https://musicmusingsandsuch.wordpress.com/about/

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Follow City and the Sea:

Official:

http://www.cityandthesea.com/splash/

Facebook:

https://www.facebook.com/cityandthesea

Twitter:

https://twitter.com/cityandthesea

YouTube:

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCIf43XecWh-3RY-LlL1Pymg

Bandcamp:

http://cityandthesea.bandcamp.com/

ReverbNation:

http://www.reverbnation.com/cityandthesea

MySpace:

https://myspace.com/wearecityandthesea

Instagram:

http://instagram.com/cityandtheseaband

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City and the Sea’s gig dates available via:

Shows

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City and the Sea music can be heard here:

Music

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City and the Sea’s videos are accessible at:

Videos

Interview: RKZ

 

   RKZ INTERVIEW: 

“Don’t be afraid to do what’s different”

 

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By Sam Liddicott

17:00 31st July, 2014.

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The mixtape Science X Soul is released on 21st August, 2014.

RKZ’s music is available to purchase at:

https://itunes.apple.com/gb/artist/rkz/id321513973

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Renowned for his philanthropy, humanity (multi-talented abilities) and stunning music; RKZ is one of this country’s busiest talents. Still Oceans is a tantalising glimpse into (the forthcoming) Science X Soul: a record that will distinguish the Bedfordshire-born Rikesh Nitin Chauhan as one of the most vibrant names on the scene. I ask the 24-year-old about his influences; how music helps vulnerable adults in society; what drives his process- plus any advice he would offer up-and-coming musicians.

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IT is rare to meet anyone in music that has such an…

entrepreneurial and humanitarian approach. Aside from names like will.i.am- who seems to be financially-driven and technologically-focused- few modern-day musicians take the time to consider others- the focus is on their own worth and ambitions. I guess it is hard to balance that sort of work ethic: make sure your mind is committed to your passion; allowing some room for charity and unselfishness- whilst making sure you do not burn out. I am always impressed when someone comes along; able to negate the pitfalls (of this balancing act); ensuring they dedicate as much attention to others- as they do to their own craft. It is a well-heralded belief that musicians do not give enough to the public- too much attention is on commercialism and financial gain. This is true of a lot of mainstream acts: those who have their heart in the right place ensure rigid focus is placed on benevolence and community. Recently, I was introduced to a rather special and tremendous talent: the vibrant and compelling RKZ. Before I pay tribute to one of the U.K.’s most special artists, let me shed some biographical light:

RKZ (pronounced ‘Ricks’) is a singer-songwriter, rapper and Spoken Word artist from Luton, England. He began his career in 2009 as a rapper before gradually developing his skills as a singer, Spoken Word poet and writer. His musical style is considered a fusion of alternative R&B, Neo-Soul and Hip Hop. Aged 24, RKZ has already released several singles, four mixtapes and three EPs to date with a fifth mixtape, Science X Soul, scheduled to release in 2014. He has been playlisted on radio stations including BBC (Radio 1, 1Xtra, 3 Counties, Radio 4, 6 Music and Asian Network), KISS and Bang Radio, and has performed nationwide – from acoustic venues such as The Water Rats and Hoxton Bar & Grill to festivals including T In The Park, Reading, Leeds and BBC London Mela. He is currently preparing the release of his fifth mixtape, Science X Soul, and debut LP, Wanderlust. In 2012, RKZ was announced as Ambassador for CALM. The charity aims to reduce the suicide rate with young men in the UK, particularly London. Suicide catalysed by depression and stress is the single biggest killer of young men aged 15 to 35 in the UK. RKZ is a prominent writer and regularly contributes to CALM’s website and monthly CALMzine, where he touches on topics including depression, society and youth culture. He has self-published an online series called #MotivationalProse, which is dedicated to instilling a positive mentality and outlook in the youth of today. He also contributed to Hip-Hop blog, Sampleface, as a music reviewer before becoming the Head of UK Content in 2014. RKZ – who is slowly becoming a jack of all trades – has directed all of his music videos since 2011. He has gone on to direct music videos for artists including Cashtastic, Skott Summerz, Preeya Kalidas and more. He also produced video content for emerging arts talent platform, Be Discovered, which featured artists including Shakka, Little Simz, Tawiah, Chasing Grace, Jasmine Solano, MeLo-X, Little Nikki and more.”

Few other acts are as busy and driven as RKZ- it seems he is immune to fatigue and self-absorption. Committed to charitable avenues (and the importance of good mental health), he is the ambassador and figurehead of a new wave of musicians: those that take the time to help struggling and vulnerable. RKZ does not make music a catalyst for his charity work- or vice versa. The two work with each other but do not encroach- RKZ has as much passion and conviction for both disparate realms. As warm and caring as the young artist is, his music is among the most electric and potent in this country. Having been recording since the age of 17, he set up the record label DAS Records: he left the label is 2009, before embarking on the first of his series of mixtapes- a classic series that shows the full extent of his ambition and experimentation. Already having released four mixtapes- and a series of E.P.s- the Luton-born rapper has no sense of slowing or relenting- his album Wunderlust is released shortly; in addition to his mixtape Science X Soul. Following a prestigious spot at last year’s Reading and Leeds Festival (on the BBC Introducing stage), the momentum has been building- this year, the assiduous artist has been as busy and creative as ever. In addition to his loyal charity work, RKZ cares about his fans and listeners: his official website is the most detailed and informative I have ever seen. Ensuring new eyes and ears do not miss out, RKZ has a distinct and unquestionable love for music- something that has compelled me to find out more. As the video for Still Oceans is released- Science X Soul and Wunderlust are imminent- I was keen to find out who influences the 24-year-old; what his plans for the future are- how important poetry and lyrics are (to the development of his music)…

You are renowned for your fusions of various genres – built around a Rap core. Do you think that cross-pollination is the key to a richer and more fascinating sound?

Art doesn’t have boundaries, it continuously evolves. I’ve always lived trying to learn and experience new things – quite often that takes shape through different styles of music. I don’t start creating with the intention of emulating a certain sound, I just do what I feel works best. What sounds good, and what feels good. For me the key to a richer and fascinating sound comes from being your truest self and losing all constraints.

What do you think of current music – in terms of quality and innovation?

There’s so much scope for experimentation, for inspiration. A lot of things are happening in the world right now that have inspired people to raise their voices. The best art has always been the product of (usually) politicial-driven triggers. You begin to see a lot of rappers speak more consciously, producers are going back to their roots, writers and composers are able to bring attention to things we wouldn’t necessarily be exposed to. And in similar vein, it’s bringing out incredible records that preach positivity and make people want to get up and move. Music is great right now – it never stopped being great – it’s just down to where you’ve been looking.

Are there particular artists – on the modern scene- that you are impressed by?

Of course. I’m always first to praise the likes of Jhené [Aiko] and Kendrick [Lamar]. They’ve been my favourite musicians for a minute. Their sound is so undeniably fresh, and that struck a nerve with me. I’ve also been listening to a lot of Jordan Rakei, Common, Ariana Grande, ScHoolBoy Q, and I’m getting into Snarky Puppy. In the UK artists like Daley, Ego Ella May, Little Simz, Shakka, Shawn Sanderson, Wretch, Tawiah, Eric Lau… the list is endless, man.

Your fifth mixtape – Science X Soul – is released shortly. For those new to your work: what can you tell us about its content?

It’s an amalgamation of R&B, spoken word, rap, groove and a lot of awesomely subtle BVs! I’ve enlisted some incredibly talented producers and collaborators in the likes of Gifted The Great, Shawn Sanderson, Raxstar, TINYMAN, Kaly, Handbook and more! I keep my music conscious – everything needs to have a strong moral or purpose behind it. I love records with good groove and warmth so I always try to intertwine all of those elements where possible.

Still Oceans (RKZ’s latest single) is gaining praise for its chilled and seductive sound – who are your main and most important influences?

The record was inspired by an acoustic version of In LOVE We Trust by Jhené Aiko. I’ve sampled her on my last two mixtapes (Stranger on 21 and Jhené’s Song in Words of Adrenaline) so it was only right to keep that going. Generally – I’m influenced by the things I see around me and experiences people go through. I like to position myself in their shoes and write about how they feel, if it’s something I’ve not personally been through. I’m told I’m quite good at doing that.

Your debut L.P. – Wanderlust – is forthcoming. What is that album going to offer; how will it differ from your mixtapes’ sounds?

It’s not as raw as the mixtape. It’s very intricately arranged – vocal heavy as opposed to rap led – melancholic, sultry and honest. I love making music you can sit and chill to, something that takes the listeners away into their own world. With R&B and Soul the music alone can speak volumes, so having the entirety of the album produced in that way really allows me to be in my element.. creatively, lyrically.

Many modern artists overlook the importance of great lyrics and words. How important are lyrics and poetry in the development of your identity?

I’m a writer, so they’re THE essential element for myself and my art. I’ve never really been able to express myself as well as I do with music, poetry and spoken word. It’s gives me a canvas to build a story on and allows me to paint a picture for everyone else to absorb. I don’t necessarily think it’s overlooked but it depends on the kind of artist you are. A lot of what we see in the mainstream is the product of a business. They create what’s trending and make music that doesn’t really provoke. This isn’t to say that it’s not a skill – making pop music is very, very difficult to do. Rather poets, writers, and musicians that want to share their collective thoughts, ideals and stories, favour lyrics as the primary and tie music AROUND that.

Do you think that social media – and the rise of the digital age – is helping or hindering new acts?

If it hinders you, you’re not doing it right. Social Media is a fantastic tool that’s revolutionised music promotion and the DIY attitude. Of course the flip side is you’re exposed to a lot of ‘spam artists’ that send generic tweets to a million people, but no one pays attention to that shit. And yes, the digital revolution did change the face of the music industry but we need to accept that and find ways to utilise the situation at hand. Social Media is the first place I hear about new releases, videos, etc. Everything is moving over to digital – if you’re not with it, you’re falling behind.

In addition to music, you are an Ambassador for C.A.L.M. (a charity that aims to reduce suicide rates of young men in the U.K.) – how important and crucial is that work to you?

It’s important to put good energy into the world. CALM is a fantastic cause that aims to help men tackle their demons and destroy the stigma surrounding depression. It’s played a massive part in my development as an artist, a person, a human being. They’ve helped a lot of people through tough personal situations, and every other day I get someone new wanting to know more about them. It’s so important to get people talking about their feelings and make people more aware about mental health.

Having worked with a lot of depressed and vulnerable young adults; how important a role does music play in their life? Is there a way the music industry can help those affected (by mental illness)?

It transcends beyond music. ART overall is such a massive part because it gives people that aren’t great with their words an outlet. They can express through that, in surroundings that are more comfortable to them. CALM actively works through the arts across London to reach the younger audience from working with musicians like myself, to graffiti artists to maintaining presence at festivals, street parties and general events. Just check out their website and you’ll know exactly what I mean.

In regards to the music industry, Soul Culture took a massive positive step forward with the launch of their blog focused on depression and mental health – OK Not To Be OK. It’s a case of opening up and putting shit out on the table. When we talk, we’re empowering ourselves, and that needs to happen more because I know there are some phenomenal stories out there. Slowly but surely we’re making headway.

In terms of plans for the next year- what is forthcoming?

That very much depends on how this year pans out! I’ve got two singles following this mixtape, as well as the LP. Ask me in December and I’ll be able to give you a better answer, ha.

What would be your advice for any young and eager musicians coming through?

Don’t be afraid to do what’s different.

https://twitter.com/RKZUK/status/494744661572202496

It is clear that RKZ is a young artist with a great deal of heart. Committed to raising awareness- of vulnerable and mentally ill adults- his hard-working drive should inspire many other new musicians- enforce and compel a new way of thinking. In addition to continuing his role as a C.A.L.M. ambassador, Chauhan is making sure that his music reaches as many people as possible. It is clear that music has the power to lift and soothe the mind: people who suffer mental illness- such as myself- find redemption and inspiration in music- it gives the affected something to find comfort in. I have been listening back- at RKZ’s body of work- and seeing the progress and development (he has made). Seemingly more fervent, hungry and striking- with each release- he is one of this country’s most important and prominent musicians. His compelling blend of Rap, Spoken Word and Hip-Hop influences creates unique and wonderful music- draped around atmospheric and direct vocal deliveries. If you haven’t heard of RKZ- and his majestic blends- then make sure you make it a top priority. Few understand the importance music plays in helping troubled minds- reaching out to the most susceptible and vulnerable. Ensure that you absorb the music and magic of RKZ and his fascinating back-story- where has come from- and just what is to come…

FEW other artists would appreciate it more.

Special thanks to Tracey Hills of Brick London Ltd.

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Follow RKZ:

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Official:

http://rkzuk.com/

Facebook:

https://www.facebook.com/RKZMusic

Twitter:

https://twitter.com/RKZUK

SoundCloud:

https://soundcloud.com/rkzuk

MySpace:

https://myspace.com/rkzuk

ReverbNation:

https://www.reverbnation.com/playlist/view_playlist/-4?page_object=artist_110892

Vimeo:

http://vimeo.com/rkzuk

VSCO:

http://rkzuk.vsco.co/

Pinterest:

http://www.pinterest.com/RKZUK

Instagram:

http://instagram.com/RKZUK

Flickr:

http://flickr.com/RKZUK

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RKZ’s music is available to stream at:

http://rkzuk.bandcamp.com/

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Events and gig dates available via:

http://rkzuk.com/

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RKZ’s video can be viewed here:

http://www.youtube.com/user/RKZUK